Ahh, the bright lights of Hollywood. Where the famous and the wanna-bes congregate to grasp that silver starlight, desperate to extend their moment in the sun. But with desire comes pain, as any Buddhist could tell you, and the streets of Tinseltown are streaked with blood. Some of the most famous murders in the annals of American crime took place in Hollywood, and the motives ranged across all seven of the Deadly Sins – lust, envy, greed, and wrath for starters. In this article, I’ll summarize some of the most notorious slayings to take place there, as a note of caution for any who have been bedazzled by the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.
Fans of comedy stopped laughing in 1998 when “Saturday Night Live” and “Simpsons” star Phil Hartman was shot by his wife Brynn, who then turned the gun on herself. The victim’s family blamed an adverse reaction to the antidepressant drug Zoloft, claiming that the mind-melter pill drove Brynn over the brink of insanity. Pfizer later settled the case out of court.
You’d never know from watching his show, but “Hogan’s Heroes” star Bob Crane was one perverted soul. Notorious for his sex parties with married women, in which hidden cameras would record all sorts of erotic escapades. Unfortunately, his libertine lifestyle boomeranged on him and he was found beaten to death, his head caved in by a camera tripod, in 1978. Some theorize it was a jealous husband who did the deed, but the murder still remains unsolved.
One of the most shocking murders of recent years was the slaying of Bonnie Lee Bakely, the wife of TV’s “Baretta,” Robert Blake. Blake quickly became the prime suspect in a twisted conspiracy that alleged he felt trapped in his marriage after Bonnie became pregnant and slew his bride to gain sole custody of his daughter. After a tabloid-thrilling trial, Blake was acquitted of all charges and the real murderer still remains free.
The halcyon days of the 60s and 70s saw a drug culture sprout up in Hollywood that reflected a dark mirror on the sunshine sentimentality of the San Francisco scene. No person embodied the seedy side of the times like Charles Manson, demented cult leader and wanna-be folk singer. Under Manson’s command, a group of his followers broke into the home of actress Sharon Tate and brutally butchered her and her unborn baby. The resultant trial scandalized California and made Manson one of the most recognizable monsters in American history.
Of course, the most notorious murder in Hollywood history is the gruesome slaying of Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ronald Goldman. The prime suspect, Brown’s ex-husband and former football legend O.J. Simpson, left nobody in doubt of his guilt when he led police on a surreal chase through the L.A. freeway system in his white Ford Bronco, but a jury miraculously acquitted him of the crime. A civil court case later did find him guilty, and he received a $33.5 million judgment to the families. O.J. seems unrepentant for his crimes, but was later arrested and convicted in a bizarre kidnapping case.