the benefits of naked dancing

Karyn “Cookie” Kupcinet was born to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv “Kup” Kupcinet and his wife Essee.

Karyn found here

At his peak Kup delivered six columns a week, hosted a late-night talk show, and added color commentary for the Chicago Bears. And while Kup was everyone’s friend, Essee wouldn’t cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire – unless, of course, you were on the “A” list. From the moment Cookie was born, Essee was besotted and determined to make her a star.

image found here

She introduced her daughter to diet pills and crash dieting. Around the time she moved to NYC to study with Lee Strasberg, Karyn began a two-year odyssey of plastic surgery on her chin, nose, ears, and eyes that resulted in the loss of much of her natural beauty and expressiveness on camera.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1960 after Jerry Lewis offered her a walk-on part in The Ladies’ Man. She continued to work sporadically for the next couple of years including small parts on Hawaiian Eye, Perry Mason, and The Andy Griffith Show – while developing an addiction to amphetamines and getting arrested for shoplifting - two books, a sweater and a pair of Capri pants.

image found here

In 1962 she was dating a young actor named Andrew Prine. Karyn took the relationship seriously, talking family and marriage. Prine – not so much. While being seen with a fresh face in Hollywood was good for his career, her constant amphetamine-fueled clingy act was wearing a bit thin and Prine broke it off to date other more glamourous (and less neurotic) women.

Andrew Prine found here

Karyn took to stalking Prine, cutting letters and phrases out of magazines, composing profanity-filled hate mail and sending them anonymously to her ex-boyfriend. 

On 30 November 1963 friends drove to her West Hollywood apartment after not hearing from her since the previous Wednesday. An acrid smell was emanating from the second story porch, where several newspapers, two magazines and a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer were surrounding her WELCOME mat. Inside, her nude, decomposing body was discovered laying face down on the couch with the television turned on.

Henry Miller playing ping pong found here

A cup of coffee was on a stand near a pile of magazines shredded and cut up with scissors. Drawers were pulled out and clothes thrown about the room. In the bathroom, 13 bottles of medications were found in the cabinet. The autopsy reported the cause of death was “murder by manual strangulation.”

As the years passed, several theories surrounding her death emerged. A favorite theory of the lunatic fringe / JFK conspiracy nuts is that Karyn was overheard by an operator in Oxnard, California screaming “The President is going to be killed!” twenty minutes before the assassination, and that she was the victim of a mob hit.

phones to scream over found here

Another theory held by writer James Ellroy, is that Karyn was stoned to the gills, danced alone naked in the apartment, fell or hit her neck on an object then slumped face down on the couch and died. He bases his theory on the fact that a book on the benefits of naked dancing was found in the apartment and the coroner may have been a drunk prone to mistakes.

image found here

There were five other possible suspects in her death – Andrew Prine, Edward Rubin, Robert Hathaway, William Mamches, and David Lange.

According to police interviews, writer Rubin came over to Karyn’s apartment on Wednesday evening. They talked for an hour and then Karyn went for a walk around the block. She ran into actor friend Hathaway and asked him back to her place where the three of them hung out together. Rubin and Hathaway stayed watching TV until 11:00 pm and then left, locking the door behind them. Karyn spoke briefly with Prine on the phone around midnight. Unemployed actor Mamches claimed not to have seen Karyn for three weeks. Rubin, Hathaway, and Mamches were all friends of Prine and shared a rental house together. Lange (brother of actress Hope Lange) lived directly below Karyn and claimed to return home drunk from his date with Natalie Wood around midnight on Wednesday, and did not hear anything unusual.

Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken found here

In police interviews Rubin, Hathaway, and Mamches all stated that they had never dated, hit on, or had sex with Karyn and all just knew her as a mutual friend of Prine. Lange was questioned repeatedly because he was known as a full-blown, falling-down drunk who had a habit of walking into other neighbors’ apartments unannounced. Kup and Essee always felt the Prine was the killer.

Karyn’s brother Jerry lives in Los Angeles and has directed such shows as The Dating Game, The Richard Simmons Show, and Susan Powter infomercials, as well as Judge Judy. His daughter Karyn “Kari” Kupcinet briefly took to the stage and worked in daytime soap operas. However she quit show business and opened an erotic storefront called G Boutique in Chicago. Andrew Prine lives in the Valley just outside Los Angeles and slowly started working again appearing in CSI, JAG, Six Feet Under, and ironically enough, Murder, She Wrote.

image found here

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50 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Although is James Elroy is right here is proof of a big disbenefit of naked dancing!

  2. I’ve got the proverbial two left feet issue, so Ellroy’s theory sounds plausible enough to me.
    I suspect I could sustain an injury like that stone cold sober.

    • Your wife let you dance naked in the house mr two left feet?

  3. “Essee wouldn’t cross the street to piss on you…”

    might you have her address?

    (ADORED THIS POST!)

    • p.s.

      she was buried with a pack of camels and a lighter.

      • Pall Mall, Norma.

      • what would i do without you.

  4. Was there DNA? Sounds like a cold case ready to re-open. I recall Andrew Prine; he always played the whiney younger brother or the second-rate thief or the untrustworthy accomplice. Just looking at his film career makes me think that, if he did it, he would have broken down and confessed.

    • I’m too busy looking at him with his horse to look at his film career

  5. A lot of nude pictures this time around.

    Also going to make a note to die in a less embarrassing pose.

  6. Mr Prime has an interesting “thumb.”
    (just hold your mouse over the pony picture.;-) )

    • Thumb….NAIL!!

    • It took a minute to realize that “hold your mouse” wasn’t a euphemism.

      • I smell a rat …

  7. The coroner may have been pissed like Bukowski on a cold grey morning, but “manual strangulation” is in no way something that goes together with “hit her neck on an object then slumped face down on the couch and died.” Sorry Ellroy, that’s crap.
    There was seemingly no real interest to put Mr. Pine through the grinder. Sad. In all respects.

    Btw what do you think of H. Miller, Nurse Myra? Did you already write about him?

    • No I haven’t written about Henry Miller. Nor have I read him. should I rectify that omission immediately?

  8. Wow, what a well-rendered review of a sad life concluded by an even sadder death. Excellent links too. Nursemyra thank you for another well spent half hour of unique infotainment. :)

  9. The coroner must have been a drunk. What a sad life.

  10. Naked dancing will not make an appearance in my house, that’s for sure.

  11. Are you secretly joining us Trekkers, NM?

    If only I’d known what Legate Turrell had under his uniform. Wait! Now I do know…where’s that remote control?

    • No, you haven’t lured me over to the dark side yet queenie

  12. I’m pretty sure naked dancing and gymnastics will ALWAYS get you into trouble. Especially if there’s redbull and vodka involved.

  13. You could see this going wrong from the start – the over-ambitious parents living vicariously through the daughter, the plastic surgery.

  14. You’ve just reminded me about Natalie Wood’s untimely death. She was luverly *sigh*

  15. Another great post. Makes me kind of glad that my girlish dreams of being a star never came to anything.

  16. I’ve often fantasized about how cool it might be to have a woman so obsessed with me that she’d stalk me. She’d probably do anything in bed that I asked! The reality is that it’s probably not all that entertaining.

    • Just think about Fatal Attraction

      • It’s all fun and games until she breaks into your house and boils your bunny.

  17. I blame the mother.

  18. Through an elaborately arranged scavenger hunt, the final clue of which leads you to the bedroom of your childhood home, where your now ex-girlfriend lays naked in the arms of the neighbourhood paperboy, who holds up a note reading, “Shouldn’t have gone travelling for the summer, pal”.

  19. and now we know why Henry Miller is one of my heroes.

    • I guess I definitely should be reading him then.

  20. I kind of like James Ellroy’s idea about her death.

  21. Andrew Prine looks germanic with that hair style.
    It must have been him.

  22. Anyone whose mother is determined to make her a star is heading for trouble. She must have had a miserable childhood trying to live her own life and not her mother’s.

  23. Nice horse pic! And the pony is nice, too….

    • oh daisyfae…. what are we going to do with you…?

  24. Sounds like a pretty bleak life….I hope she had at least some good times somewhere along the way.

  25. Andrew is just trying to make me feel small – – -

    • Don’t let him succeed Archie.

  26. Amazing how many high-profile unsolved murders there are. Where’s Columbo when you need him?

  27. Henry Miller — playing ping pong with style…

  28. i LOVE dancing naked. Grin.

    • Naked dancing is a happy thing to do

  29. What chance did she have with a mother like that? Poor thing

  30. What exactly is an erotic storefront?

    • I really don’t know. If you click the link at the top of the page you can read the entire article by Scott Stanton at findadeath.com. Though I don’t think you’ll be any wiser at the end of it…..

  31. Parents. They fuck you up. They do.

  32. Richard Simmons, Susan Powter … if only my career were half as glamorous.

  33. I feel like to be properly famous you have to be properly crazy.


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