Franklin Park man presents program that examines seedier side of Hollywood

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Actress Natalie Wood was 43 when she drowned off the California coast after a boat trip to Santa Catalina Island in November 1981.

But her death was no accident, if you ask film fanatic Tom Madden of Franklin Park.

“The case remains open,” said Madden, a professional screenwriter, executive producer and director of Asylum Entertainment and creator of “Hollywood Homicide,” a fast-paced, photo-filled show.

“It takes a look at the darker, seedier side of Hollywood,” Madden said about his original production, a sort of slide show and lecture-to-go.

“I was hooked on Hollywood as a kid,” said Madden, also artistic and managing director of the Legacy Theatre at Cumberland Woods Village in McCandless. “I've done a huge amount of research on Sharon Tate and Natalie Wood.”

Madden also is a Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama graduate and former member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA.

Madden recently screened and staged “Hollywood Homicide” at Hampton Fields Village in Hampton and Lighthouse Pointe Village at Chapel Harbor in O'Hara, both UPMC Senior Communities.

More than 70 people attended the program at Hampton Fields Village as part of an ongoing series of seminars and concerts — all open to the public at no charge — to acquaint people with UPMC Senior Communities.

“These programs are very good, very different,” said Lois Weichel of Shaler, who attended “Hollywood Homicide” with husband, Don Weichel.

Bob and Bea Magill, also of Shaler, liked “Hollywood Homicide,” too.

“It was interesting,” she said.

Madden opens “Hollywood Homicide” with a review of some famed victims of car accidents — James Dean, Grace Kelly and Jayne Mansfield — followed by a look at some musicians who died aboard planes — Buddy Holly, Jim Croce, Ricky Nelson and Patsy Cline.

“Hollywood Homicide” also explores the saga of overweight silent-film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was accused — and then acquitted — of raping and killing actress Virginia Rappe.

Madden's show then examines, among others, the deaths of Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia,” who was cut in half; George “Superman” Reeves; Marilyn Monroe; Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten; actor Keith Carradine; Bob Crane of “Hogan's Heroes”; stalking victim and TV actress Rebecca Schaeffer; Phil Spector's girlfriend Lana Clarkson; actor and stabbing victim Sal Mineo; movie star Lana Turner's boyfriend Johnny Stompanato; Robert Blake's wife Bonnie Lee Bakley; actress Sharon Tate; and actress Natalie Wood.

Wood, wife of actor Robert Wagner, was filming “Brainstorm” with actor Christopher Walken — he also was on the boat with Wood and Wagner that fateful night — when witnesses reported people screaming on the vessel in the wee hours before Wood's bruised body was found in the waters near Santa Catalina Island.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles coroner's office changed the official cause of Wood's death from “accident” to “undetermined.”

As a follow-up to “Hollywood Homicide,” singer Donna Groom of The Skyliners will perform at 2:30 p.m. April 23 at Hampton Fields Village. Advance registration is required. Admission is free.

For reservations, call 412-492-8448.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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