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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21, 1976

I think that it's time for another Tuesday Timeline entry, don't you?

I tell you one thing.  Tuesday Timeline entries are some of my favourite ones to write because I learn so much about pop culture and other related topics.  And in this case, today's date marks sort of an end...before the end.  If that makes any sort of sense at all.

Don't worry.  I'll be explaining that a little bit later in this blog.  For now though, why not have a look at some of the major events that took place around the world on October 21.  A lot of interesting things happened on this date, you know?

1520 - Explorer Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Strait of Magellan or the same day that another explorer - Joao Alvares Fagundes - discovers the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon

1797 - The United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched at Boston Harbor, complete with a 44-gun salute

1854 - Nurse Florence Nightingale along with thirty-eight other nurses are sent to the Crimean War

1861 - Colonel Edward Baker is killed during the Battle of Ball's Bluff during the American Civil War

1879 - Thomas Edison invents a workable light bulb at his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory which lasts a little over thirteen hours before burning out

1910 - HMS Niobe arrives in Halifax Harbour, becoming the first ship of the Royal Canadian Navy

1917 - Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie (d. 1993) is born in Cheraw, South Carolina

1921 - George Melford's "The Sheik" debuts

1940 - The first edition of Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is published

1955 - Contemporary Christian artist Rich Mullins (d. 1997) is born in Richmond, Indiana

1959 - The Guggenheim Museum opens up to the public in New York City

1967 - More than one hundred thousand people gather in Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War

1971 - A gas explosion at a shopping plaza kills 22 people outside of Glasgow, Scotland

1973 - The kidnappers of John Paul Getty III cut off Getty's ear and is mailed to a newspaper in Rome

1978 - Australian pilot Frederick Valentich vanishes in a Cessna 182 over the Bass Strait south of Melbourne, Australia

1987 - In Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Hospital Massacre is carried out by the Indian Peace Keeping Force, killing at least 70

1994 - North Korea and the United States sign an agreement that requires North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program

1995 - Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon dies of a drug overdose, aged 28

2003 - "What's Happening" star Fred Berry passes away at age 52

And birthday greetings go out to the following people;  Joyce Randolph, Whitey Ford, Manfred Mann, Rhoda Gemignani, Steve Cropper, Elvin Bishop, Judge Judy Sheindlin, Everett McGill, Tom Everett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Patti Davis, Charlotte Caffey, Eric Faulkner, Carrie Fisher, Ken Watanabe, Felicity Andersen, Jeremy Miller, David Clayton Rogers, Will Estes, Kim Kardashian, Matt Dallas, and Charlotte Sullivan.

So, what's the date that we will be going back to this week?



Well, let's take a trip back in time thirty-eight years ago to October 21, 1976.

That was the day that the British rock band "The Who" would wrap up their second of two tours promoting their 1975 album "The Who By Numbers".  And the final concert of the tour was a Canadian date, playing at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario.

Now, the final show of a concert tour is usually memorable for a lot of reasons.  In the case of The Who's October 21, 1976 concert, it was especially memorable as it ended up being one member's swan song.

Less than two years after he walked away from touring with The Who, he would end up dead following a massive drug overdose.



Of course, the writing was on the wall for a long time.  While The Who could easily be considered musical geniuses of their day with hits like "Behind Blue Eyes", "My Generation", "Baba O'Riley", and "Who Are You" making headway on the charts, their tenure as a band was certainly tumultuous at times.



And perhaps no member of The Who was more troubled than Keith Moon.  We'll get into the what, where, why, and yes, who about the story of Keith Moon a little later, but for now, let's focus on the when.

The when was October 21, 1976.  The who in question was Keith Moon.  The where was Toronto, Ontario.  The what?  Well, that was the date in which he played his final tour date before unofficially retiring from the band.

But why?  That is the question that still remains unanswered.  And to answer it, we should probably take a look at the events that took place prior to October 21, 1976.

Born in Wembley, London, England on the 23rd of August, 1946, Keith Moon seemed to be a bit of a problem child right at the start.  Being extremely hyperactive as a child, he would often have a vivid imagination and this would get him into trouble at school.  He had a fondness for practical jokes, and often found himself fascinated by explosions - the louder, the better.  Remember that point for later.

Moon joined the local Sea Cadet Corps band at the age of twelve to play the bugle, but when he couldn't figure out how to play it, he switched to playing the drums.  After leaving school at age fourteen, he enrolled at a technical college, leading him to get a job as a radio repairman, allowing him to purchase his very first drum set.



Now, how he came to join The Who is a frequently disputed story, but the facts we do know is that The Who needed a new drummer after the departure of Doug Sandom in early 1964, and Moon arrived at a concert given by the band with a session drummer filling in.  The most commonly believed story goes that Moon approached the band and told them that he could play much better than the guy who was playing for them.  The rest of the band gave him a chance, and Moon played with such vigor that he reportedly nearly destroyed the drum set that was at the venue!  Moon then became The Who's permanent replacement beginning in mid-1964.

And, with Keith Moon joining the band, it caused a permanent change in dynamics of the group.  You see, the band members of The Who played beautiful music together, but it was also widely known that the members of the band had terrible personal relationships with each other.  The feud between Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend often had clashes with each other, but back when Sandom was still in the band, he acted as peacemaker and would calm both Daltrey and Townshend down.  After all, Sandom was at least a decade older than the other members of The Who when he joined.

But here came this new guy, Keith Moon, with a hyperactive personality and uncontrollable temper, and all hell broke loose.  Remove the peacekeeper, and you have four band members all struggling to be heard no matter how badly they behaved.  At some point during Moon's tenure with The Who, he had clashed with Daltrey, Townshend, and John Entwistle.

And, let's just say that Keith Moon brought his own destructive behaviour into the band the only way he knew how to.  Here's a list of some of things that took place while he was a member of The Who.

- He and Entwistle were late for a gig that the Who were playing because they were hanging out with Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, leading to a physical altercation between Moon and Townshend, and causing Moon and Entwistle to quit the band - both rejoined a week later.
- He got a limousine to turn around and take the band back to the hotel they stayed at just so Moon could throw the television set into the swimming pool.
- Reportedly caused half a million dollars in damage during his lifetime by destroying multiple hotel rooms.
- He basically blew up every single toilet in the hotel rooms that The Who stayed in with cherry bombs and explosives, causing the band to be kicked out of every single hotel they stayed at.
- Moon's 21st birthday celebrations in August 1967 were a major disaster.  The band played in Flint, Michigan and stayed at a Holiday Inn where Keith knocked out part of his front tooth after starting a drunken food fight.  When Keith was getting his tooth removed, the rest of the party grew out of control with other guests being thrown into the pool, fire extinguishers being set off, and a grand piano getting destroyed before the police were called to stop the madness.  The band was presented with a $24,000 bill and told to get out of the hotel immediately.
- He accidentally killed his bodyguard Neil Boland in 1970 when Boland was struck by Moon's car while he was driving.  Although the death was ruled accidental, this incident affected him the rest of his life.
- During a 1973 concert, Moon passed out twice during a concert in Daly City, California, prompting the band to ask a random audience member, Scot Halpin, to fill in.
- He also passed out during a 1976 concert and the day after, destroyed everything in his hotel room, cutting himself.  Had his manager not found him in time, he would have bled to death.  This was the moment in which Daltrey and Townshend considered firing Moon, but decided against it because they thought it would make matters worse.

Of course, all of these instances could easily be explained.  While it's true that Keith Moon had a certain personality that was unlike most others, the destructive behaviour was linked to his dependence on drugs and alcohol.  He had been taking amphetamines when he joined The Who, and he gradually became addicted to both alcohol and drugs.  But while Moon's drug and alcohol abuse didn't initially seem to have an impact on The Who's music during the 1960s, it all caught up to him by the time he had destroyed his hotel room in 1976 and nearly died because of it.

By the time the band was midway through their 1976 tour, Keith Moon had already become sluggish and unable to concentrate.  He had gained a considerable amount of weight and couldn't keep up with the band as well as he used to.  He had been frequently in and out of hospital due to his dependence on drugs, and the rest of the band weren't sure that Moon would make it to the end of the tour.



So, that leads up to October 21, 1976.  The final stop on the band's 1976 tour, and the final concert show that Moon would ever play in front of a live crowd.  You now know the why.  Moon had to leave the band because he physically and emotionally couldn't do it anymore.  The drug abuse, the death of his friend, his body beginning to turn against him.  It all grew to be too much.

For what it was worth, that final concert in Toronto was memorable, as he finished the show without incident. 



Sadly, less than two years later, on September 7, 1978, Keith Moon died as a direct result of swallowing thirty-two clomathiazole pills at once - pills that ironically were used to help alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.  He was just 32 years old.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wacky Packages

Hey, everybody! 

For this week's edition of FUNNY MONDAY, I thought that I would try something new by making the topic of discussion about something old.

Yeah, somewhere in my mind, that made sense.

Anyway, I thought that I would make this entry very short on text and very picture heavy because were going to be discussing a fad that has somehow managed to last forty-seven years and counting.  I know.  I got involved in that fad at some point in my childhood, collecting these kinds of cards.  I may even still have some of them kicking around.



Of course, I'm talking about "Wacky Packages"!

It seems hard to believe that these cards that make disgusting and gross spoofs of everyday household items were first printed by the Topps Company in 1967.  They were originally die-cut cards, similar in size and thickness to a standard baseball card where the images of the product on the cards could be popped out of the card.  By 1973, the company switched to a sticker format, which has become the most common format for the cards.  Between 1967 and 2013, it is estimated that billions of "Wacky Packages" cards have been produced, and believe it or not, at one point they outsold the Topps baseball cards that were also manufactured.  There were even posters, postcards, and even comic books manufactured!

So, for this edition of the blog, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the funny Wacky Packages that I have found online and from my own personal collection.  For some of these products, you'll recognize them right away, but for others, I'll explain what the original product is.

Let's put it this way.  You won't be finding these products in supermarkets any time soon.  There's twenty-seven in all.



1.  RATZ CRACKERS

You won't find this spoof of Ritz Crackers on the shelf at your grocery store.  You also may have a difficult time finding this card in the first place.  It was one of the original 44 cards released in 1967 that was pulled from production shortly after, making this card a rarity.



2.  CRACKED ANIMALS

Same deal with this animal crackers spoof.   This card is also a rare one to find.



3.  KOOK-AID

Obviously, this is meant to be a spin on Kool-Aid.  But I wonder what flavour it is.  Looks like grimacing grape to me.



4.  JELLY BULLY

I'm not a fan of most of the more exotic Jelly Belly flavours, but not even a jellybean deserves this much abuse!  I bet the Jelly Bully is rotten key lime flavour.



5.  SKIP-IT PEANUT BUTTER

What could be worse than not being able to rip the lip off of a peanut butter container?



6.  JIP PEANUT SHELLS

Well, I think we have our winner.



7.  DUMBSTICK ICE CREAM

I suppose that putting it on your head would be a quick way to freeze your brain.



8.  HOPELESS SNOWBALLS

Actually, these would be handy to sell in June, July, and August.  And for those of you who don't know what these are, they were a snack cake that Hostess manufactured.



9.  IVERY SNOW

Speaking of snow...the mother might want to get her clothes out of the dryer so that her child doesn't...you know...die.



10.  SMOOCHER'S STICKY JAM

Obviously a spoof of Smucker's jam products.  The secret ingredient is crazy glue.



11.  KENTUCKY FRIED FINGERS

Well, I suppose this negates the "finger lickin' good" slogan that KFC has used for years.



12.  SCARY LEE SCREAMBERRY CREEP CHEESE CAKE

Ah, the perfect dessert for Halloween.



13.  UM & UM's

Well...as a four year old, I would have liked them.  Truth be told, if there was a way that I could have made M&M's melt in my hand, I'd have found it at that age.



14.  CRUST TOOTHPASTE

Forget the garlic flavour.  The name itself is revolting.



15.  DR. POPPER

Momma had a soda and her head popped off.



16.  ORDINARY K

Actually, I always have said that Special K tasted like cardboard.  I think this name could work for the real thing too.



17.  CRAKOLA CRAYONS

Well...I suppose you could get the same effect by jumping on top of a Crayola 64-count box.



18.  RICE-A-PHONI

The San Francisco treat that keeps on giving...



19.  HOGGIN' DOGZ

I suppose that featuring a scary looking dog on the package would deter you from purchasing it.



20.  CLAMMY SOAP

I assume that this is based off of Camay soap.  But, if the soap smells like clam chowder, can it really claim to keep you clean?



21.  SWEATHARD SOAP

I actually had to look this one up to find out what the original product this card was based on.  It's a brand of soap called Sweetheart Soap (don't worry...I haven't heard of it either).  Needless to say, this version of the soap will keep your sweetheart far, far away!



22.  HAWAIIAN LUNCH

The rotisserie is controlled by the guy that Punchy kept punching.  I knew he'd get his revenge one day.



23.  GRAVESTONES UNCHEWABLE VITAMINS

Ah, another product suitable for Halloween.



24.  CRAM

As if Spam was hard enough to choke down...



25.  BARFIE:  MY SCREAM

The predecessor of the Monster High doll.



26.  OLD SUPER MARIO MOTHERS

Who knew that Wacky Packages manufactured video game cards too?



27.  GRAND THEFT AUDIO - NICE DITTY

What might have happened had Grand Theft Auto debuted during the Napster era.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disco Duck

Hi, everyone!  Are you read for another SUNDAY JUKEBOX entry?  I hope you are.

Now, you might be wondering why I've chosen the colour pink to use for the highlight text this week.  Well, pink happens to be the colour that represents breast cancer awareness, and since October is breast cancer awareness month, I thought that I would show my support towards this and other cancers.  Maybe one day, we will find a way to eliminate all cancer from this world.  It's certainly a dream that many of us are wanting.

In the meantime, how about we bring out another #1 smash single from the past?

Now, I have to admit that finding scary, spooky Halloween songs for this blog has not been an easy task.  Many of the Halloween songs I know never even charted, let alone hit the top of the charts, and those that have, I've either reviewed before, or hit the top of the charts in a month other than October. 

So, I decided for this month that I would go with novelty songs.  After all, they could be played during Halloween parties, and they very well could have inspired several Halloween costumes as well for all I know.

Well, before we get to today's novelty song - that somehow made it to the top of the Billboard charts - I want to tell you a story about my childhood, if you're interested.

Now, it's no secret that when I used to work on my homework on weekends, I would always have the radio on.  After all, I am definitely not the type of person who can really concentrate on work in absolute silence.  Many people are, and good for you if you do.  I have to have some background noise or else I'm completely lost.  As I type this entry right now, I'm watching television.

Well, okay, I'm not EXACTLY watching television.  I just have it on because I can't stand complete peace and quiet.  Besides, it's Sunday morning anyway.  Nothing's on television except religious programming, infomercials, and that omnibus of "Coronation Street" that airs on CBC.

Anyway, on with the story.

I always liked to do my homework on weekends because that was the time in which they did those Top 40 countdowns.  And back in the 1990s, the countdown shows were actually worth listening to.

Of course, I had my favourite countdown show.  I always liked "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem at the helm, as well as when he did "Casey's Top 40" in the 1990s after he left "AT40" in the late 1980s.  I still can't believe that it's only been a few months since his passing.

But of course, there was a time in which I couldn't listen to Casey Kasem.  There was a period between 1991 and 1995 which I call the "non-Casey" years.  At that point in time, Shadoe Stevens had taken over AT40, and none of the radio stations in my neck of the woods had syndicated Casey's Top 40.  So, I had to find another countdown show to listen to during those four years.



Thank goodness for Rick Dees.

Yes, in the early 1990s, "Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40" was my go to radio show on weekends.  And to be honest, it was a fairly decent show.  He often inserted song parodies in his show every so often (which as you may well know, I dig a good parody every now and again), and his show certainly offered up a lot of wacky humour.  But he also knew a lot about music, and he did have some rather awesome contest giveaways back in the day.

His show has been on radio since 1983, and at the age of sixty-four, I don't see Rick Dees slowing down any time soon.  It's been a while since I tuned into one of his countdown shows (mainly because my appetite for current pop music started to sour circa 2002), but I should probably tune in once more for old times sake.  Bring back some old memories.  Actually, if you go on his website www.rick.com, you can listen to his radio show online.

But I should also note while Rick Dees has been in the radio business for a long time, he also worked as a television talk-show host (though that endeavour barely lasted one year), and he also had a brief career as a recording artist.

In fact, he had the #1 song in America thirty-eight years ago this week.  And, well...I'm just going to just post it below.  Believe me, we're going to have a lot to say about this one.



ARTIST:  Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots
SONG:  Disco Duck
ALBUM:  The Original Disco Duck
DATE RELEASED:  September 4, 1976
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 1 week

Um...wow.  It's like Huey, Dewey, and Louie from DuckTales all got together and released a song!  And, the fact that it went to the top of the charts could be partly because of the fact that 1976 was a year in which disco dominated the music scene.  Try releasing this single in 2014 and see if it goes anywhere!



The song itself was written by Dees himself and he was inspired to come up with the song after hearing another novelty song from the 1960s entitled "The Duck".  It only took Dees one day to pen the lyrics to the song and come up with a basic melody for the single, but as far as recording the song went, it took much longer for him to get enough musicians together to record the single.

Apparently nobody wanted to have their name and talent attached to a song about a disco dancer that quacked.

Nevertheless, once a team of people were assembled, the song was recorded and released in early September of 1976.  As far as the meaning of the song goes...well...there isn't much of one.  A guy goes to a discotheque and suddenly gets the urge to dance like a duck.  He then inspires everyone else in the club to dance like a duck as well.  Before you know it, you have an entire flock of duck dancers flapping their arms in the air as if they were wings.

Now, before I go ahead with further discussion about this song, I should probably clear up one major misconception.

The duck voices that you hear during the chorus of "Disco Duck" were not performed by Dees himself.  They also weren't performed by Clarence Nash, who provided the voice of Donald Duck for Disney cartoons before his death in 1985.  And, the duck voices also weren't performed by current Donald Duck voice artist Tony Anselmo.  He was only sixteen when the song was released.

No, in all actuality, the duck voices came courtesy of Rick Dees' acquaintance Ken Pruitt.  During live performances of the song, the duck voices were then provided by Michael Chesney, another acquaintance of Dees.

And yes, I know what you're thinking.  They actually performed this live?

Now, "Disco Duck" wasn't without its share of controversy.  Did you know that this song actually got Dees fired from a job?  It's true.

While Dees recorded "Disco Duck", he was working as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, and while the song was topping the charts all over the nation, in the state of Tennessee, the song was largely ignored (especially in Memphis), and rarely received any airplay on radio stations in the Memphis area. 

Now, it wasn't because of the fact that Tennessee was one of those states that focused more on country music stations that caused "Disco Duck" to be left off of playlists at many major Memphis stations.  It was the fact that because Dees worked at a Memphis radio station, the station he worked at felt that it would be a conflict of interest if they played the song.  And rival stations wouldn't play the record either because if they did, they would essentially be promoting a disc jockey from a rival radio station.  It was a no-win situation for Dees.

And Dees found out the hard way that even so much as talking about "Disco Duck" on his radio program had hard consequences.  He mentioned the song title during his morning show, and because he did, his boss terminated him on the spot, citing conflict of interest!  Fortunately, Rick Dees found employment at another radio station, and all was right in the world.  I have to wonder if that radio station began to start playing "Disco Duck" in retaliation against the station that let Dees get away.

"Disco Duck" even made an appearance in the film "Saturday Night Fever", but because of Dees' manager at the time of the film's release denying the record company that put out the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever" to include the single on the soundtrack, it cost Dees in a big way.  You see, "Saturday Night Fever" became the second best-selling soundtrack of all time, selling approximately 40 million copies and counting.  Had "Disco Duck" been included on the soundtrack, Dees would still be raking in royalty payments today.


Though, given how successful Dees has gotten over the last thirty-eight years, I don't think he's crying too much about it.  After all, he's probably the only man in the world who could write a song about a disco dancer who thinks he's a duck and make it a chart-topper!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Poltergeist Curse - Does It Exist?

I can't believe that it's the weekend already.  Boy, does time fly when you're having fun.

And, that's what I hope to bring to this blog each and every day.  I usually try to make this blog as fun as possible, and I definitely make it a mission to stay mostly positive.  There's so much negativity on the Internet that I want to try and brighten it up a little bit.  If I can make that happen with "A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE" with just a few people, then I'm happy. 

That being said, with today's SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES POST, we're going to be continuing our month of spookiness by featuring movies of increasing intensity.  And for today's feature presentation, I thought that I would choose a movie that for its time period was quite scary.  But even more frightening is the fact that many people consider this film series to be cursed.

Would you believe that over the last thirty-two years, four people who worked on this trilogy have died?  Four lives taken way too soon.  Four souls stolen away because of tragic and sudden circumstances. 

Have I got you shaking in your shoes yet?

Now, in this particular film, I will be focusing only on the first part of the trilogy, but I will be briefly mentioning the other two films as well.  After all, some people find the story of the four cast members dying after appearing in this series of films to be much more fascinating than the actual trilogy itself.



So, sit back, grab a snack, and maybe take your television set and throw it out of a window because this is the day we are going to be discussing the movie "Poltergeist".

Now, I imagine that most of you probably know what a poltergeist is, but in case you aren't sure, I'll give you a brief definition.  A poltergeist (German for "noisy ghost") is a spirit that can cause a lot of havoc in a household or business.  Poltergeists are invisible spirits that can cause objects to levitate, bend, shift, short-circuit, or spontaneously combust with no warning whatsoever.  I know it might sound like something that I have made up, but all over the world, people have reportedly abandoned homes that they believe are haunted by a poltergeist.  Now, how poltergeists get inside houses can differ.  Some may be haunting the place that they called home when they were still alive and may just be protecting their turf, while in other cases, they move into places of their own free will to have some fun with the living.

That is if you believe in ghosts, and poltergeists, and spirits.

Well, on June 4, 1982, the world was introduced to the most famous fictional poltergeist ever shown on the silver screen.  That was the day in which "Poltergeist" debuted at the box office.  And I must say that "Poltergeist" did quite well in theatres, making almost twelve times its nearly eleven million dollar budget.  Of course, when you have a huge name like Steven Spielberg serving as the film's producer, it's hard not to imagine it being a box office success.

The Tobe Hooper directed film starred Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as Steven and Diane Freeling, who have the life that many of us absolutely dream of having.  Living underneath the California sun in the planned community of Cuesta Verde, Steven makes a living as a real estate developer while Diane stays at home raising her three children, Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke).  Why, nothing could ever shatter the idyllic suburban dream that the Freeling family seemed to be living each day.

Well, that is until Carol Anne decided to watch static on television one spooky evening.

You see, back in the olden days of the early 1980s, not every household had cable television.  And even if they did have cable television, many channels didn't run 24/7 as they do now.  So at some point during the early morning hours (usually around two in the morning), broadcasting would cease.  And after the national anthem played, you'd either get the static picture, or you would get the test pattern signal (you know, the design with all the multicoloured bars).  Now, why Carol Anne was up at two o'clock in the morning, I couldn't tell you.  Maybe she had to go to the bathroom.  Maybe she couldn't sleep.  Maybe she was hungry and wanted to check and see if there was still some Count Chocula cereal left over from the previous morning's breakfast.  All I know is that when Carol Anne decided to watch static on television, crazy things began happening.

Somehow, Carol Anne's gazing into the television screen causes a spiritual apparition to blast through the screen, disappear into the wall, and causes the whole house to shake.  And, then Carol Anne makes the frightening announcement...



Yeah.  That still creeps me out even today!

So things begin happening around the Freeling house.  Minor things like glassware breaking, silverware bending, and furniture doing the do-si-do around the living room.  And then things intensify when a tree in the Freeling backyard tries to make a snack out of Robbie, and Carol Anne is abducted from her hiding spot in the closet and is sucked into another dimension.  Later investigation reveals that the Freeling house is built on a sacred burial ground, and a medium, Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) is brought in to exorcise the poltergeists and to save Carol Anne from the poltergeist's clutches.

At any rate, I would definitely check out this movie.  It's very creepy, and I was quite frightened by it when I first watched it as a kid.  I was especially creeped out in hearing that the crew used real skeletons in the swimming pool scene, according to JoBeth Williams, as I'm sure a lot of other people were.  It was alleged that real skeletons were used because it was cheaper to buy real skeletons than plastic ones (which leads me to wonder how one buys a real skeleton), but some wonder if that decision was what lead to...

...THE CURSE OF POLTERGEIST!!!

Yes, since the original "Poltergeist" debuted, two of the main cast members have met their maker.  Two more people associated with the "Poltergeist" sequels also met their end.  And while all four deaths were attributed to different causes, they all had one thing in common.  They all died way too soon. 



Perhaps the first victim of the so-called "Poltergeist" curse was Dominique Dunne, who played the Freeling's eldest daughter Dana in the first film.  By all accounts, Dominique should have had a really long career ahead of her.  Between 1979 and 1982, she had worked on several television series, and critics responded well to her performance in "Poltergeist", which was her very first role in a motion picture.  Sadly, it would end up being her last.

You see, Dominique's downfall came at the hands of the man she was seeing.  Her relationship with John Thomas Sweeney had always been stormy.  There were at least two separate instances in which he had inflicted physical abuse on Dunne before the couple split up.  On October 30, 1982, she was rehearsing for a role that she had just taken on (the 1983 miniseries "V") with one of her co-stars, David Packer when Sweeney showed up at her house unannounced.  Dunne stepped outside of the house to talk to him, and it was there that Sweeney attacked Dunne and strangled her to the point of unconsciousness.  Dunne was immediately taken to hospital, but there was nothing that doctors could do to revive her.  She passed away five days later on November 4, 1982 - just a few days before her twenty-third birthday.

John Thomas Sweeney was sentenced to seven years in jail for assault and manslaughter.  Many close to the case believe that Sweeney got off easy, and as far as I'm concerned, they aren't wrong.



The next victim of the "curse" was actor Julian Beck.  Although he didn't appear in the first film at all, he did take on the role of Henry Kane in the 1986 sequel "Poltergeist II:  The Other Side".  He accepted the role in 1983, and he filmed his scenes as planned.  But what people didn't know until later was that he was a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.  You see, Beck had been diagnosed with stomach cancer prior to accepting the role.  Sadly, he did not live long enough to see his performance on the screen.  He passed away in September 1985 at the age of 60 - eight months before "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" was released in theatres.



Another casualty of the "Poltergeist" series also starred in "Poltergeist II:  The Other Side" was Will Sampson.  You might recall that he played the role of Taylor, the medicine man.  Sampson, unlike Beck, was alive when the second movie of the trilogy debuted in May 1986.  But like Beck, Sampson was a ticking time bomb.  He had underwent a lung and heart transplant at some point after "Poltergeist II" wrapped up in an effort to prolong his life, but he died of post-operative kidney failure on June 3, 1987 at just 53 years of age.

How interesting that he died one day shy of the fifth anniversary of "Poltergeist" being released.



Sadly the final death is probably the cruelest twist of fate, as she was still a child when she passed on.  You might recall that Heather O'Rourke was just six years old when she starred in the original "Poltergeist" series.  In fact, Heather was one of two actors who appeared in all three films (the other one was Zelda Rubenstein).  But sadly, Heather's fate was sealed while she was filming the third installment of the movie.

In 1987, Heather began feeling sick and was initially diagnosed by doctors as having Crohn's Disease (an inflammatory bowel disease), and she was given a prescription of cortisone to treat it.  The treatment appeared to work, as Heather managed to finish filming her scenes for "Poltergeist III", although one side effect was that Heather's cheeks became large and puffy.

But on January 31, 1988, Heather became violently ill, being unable to keep any food or drink down, and her parents made the decision to take her to the hospital the following morning to see if there was anything that could be done.  By that point though, it was too late.  The next day, February 1, 1988, Heather collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, but she passed away later that day at the tender age of 12.  The cause of death was cardiac arrest caused by septic shock brought on by a bowel obstruction.

The O'Rourke family later sued Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego, California claiming that had Heather not been misdiagnosed, her life could have been spared.  The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court. 

So, what do you think?  Is there a "Poltergeist" curse, or is it merely just a series of coincidental deaths?