Kupcinet in 1962
|Born||Roberta Lynn Kupcinet
March 6, 1941
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||November 28, 1963
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Memorial Park Cemetery and Crematorium|
|Alma mater||Pine Manor College|
Esther Solomon Kupcinet
Kupcinet had a brief acting career during the early 1960s. Six days after the JFK assassination, her body was found at her West Hollywood, California home. It has been theorized that Kupcinet's death, officially ruled a homicide, was connected to the assassination or was the result of an accidental fall. In the 1960s, Irv Kupcinet publicly dismissed the theories linking his daughter to the president's death. In 1992 The Today Show referred briefly to her alleged connection to the assassination, which prompted Kupcinet to describe the television broadcast as "an atrocious outrage" and "calumny." Karyn Kupcinet's murder remains officially unsolved.
Kupcinet was born Roberta Lynn Kupcinet in Chicago, Illinois to Irv Kupcinet, a sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Times, and his wife, Esther "Essee" Solomon Kupcinet. She acquired the nickname "Cookie" during her childhood. She made her acting debut at age 13 in the Chicago production of Anniversary Waltz and went on to attend Pine Manor College for a semester, eventually studying at the Actors Studio in New York.
Kupcinet was encouraged into acting by her mother, and was given access to producers through the reputation of her father and his Kup's Column in the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1961, Jerry Lewis offered Kupcinet a role in the film The Ladies Man, where she appeared in a bit part as one of dozens of young ladies in a Hollywood boardinghouse. In 1962, she appeared in the role of Annie Sullivan in a Laguna Beach summer theater production of The Miracle Worker. She appeared in guest roles on television including The Donna Reed Show, The Wide Country, G.E. True, and Going My Way. In addition to guest spots, Kupcinet had a regular role in the prime time series Mrs. G. Goes to College (retitled The Gertrude Berg Show during its short run).
Kupcinet's last onscreen appearance was on Perry Mason in the role of Penny Ames entitled, "The Case of the Capering Camera." The episode aired on CBS on January 16, 1964, nearly two months after her death. Ironically, it was the final on-screen appearance of Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg.
By 1961, Kupcinet was living in Hollywood and was getting positive reviews for her acting. In March 1962, a Los Angeles Times interviewer, assigned to help Kupcinet promote The Gertrude Berg Show, noted her talking exclusively about food and her weight.
In December 1962, Kupcinet filmed a guest-star appearance on The Wide Country and had her first meeting with one of the series' stars, Andrew Prine, and began a relationship with him. However, the relationship was problematic, Kupcinet was abusing diet pills along with other prescription drugs, and she had been arrested for shoplifting.
The problems in Kupcinet's relationship with Prine were mainly due to Prine's objections to making the relationship exclusive. After Kupcinet underwent an illegal abortion in July 1963, the relationship cooled and Prine began dating other women. In turn, Kupcinet began spying on Prine and his new girlfriend. It was later determined by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that Kupcinet had sent threatening and profane messages, consisting of words and letters she had cut out of magazines, to Prine and herself. When Prine told her by telephone about the messages that had been left on his doorstep, she said she had received them, too. They met to show the messages to each other. She seemed puzzled. Soon after her death, investigators for the sheriff's department found her fingerprints on the papers and the Scotch Tape.
The weight problems had started in high school when Kupcinet began taking diet pills. Her weight remained an issue while at Pine Manor College. The pressure to stay thin intensified after Kupcinet arrived in Hollywood, and she soon began abusing diet pills along with other prescription drugs.
On the last day of her life, Kupcinet had dinner with future Lost in Space cast member Mark Goddard and his wife, Marcia Rogers Goddard, at their house on Coldwater Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills (near Mulholland Drive). She was due there at 6:30 pm, but arrived an hour late by taxicab. The couple said Kupcinet only toyed with her food during the meal. Marcia Goddard told two officers from the L.A. County Sheriff's Office that during dinner with Kupcinet "... her lips seemed numb. Her voice was funny. She moved her head at odd angles." The Goddards also noticed that her pupils were constricted. Mark Goddard told authorities that he confronted Kupcinet about her altered state during the meal, and she began to cry, putting her arm around him. At one point during the meal, Kupcinet told her friends an unsubstantiated story about a baby that had been abandoned on her doorstep earlier that day. At 8:30 pm, a taxicab arrived to take her home, and she promised to telephone the Goddards soon.
Kupcinet apparently went straight home after dining with her friends. She was visited by freelance writer Edward Stephen Rubin shortly afterward. The two were then joined by actor Robert Hathaway around 9:30 pm. They told detectives they watched TV, including The Danny Kaye Show, with Kupcinet. They all drank coffee until she fell asleep, sitting next to them on the couch. She awoke and went to her room. The men either turned the TV set off or simply lowered the volume (three days later it was still playing with a low volume), and made sure the door was locked behind them before departing at about 11:15 pm. Hathaway said he and Rubin returned to his place and were later joined by Kupcinet's boyfriend, Andrew Prine, who was also Hathaway's neighbor. The three young men watched television and talked until approximately 3:00 am.
The Goddards went to Kupcinet's apartment on November 30, after she failed to telephone the couple as promised. Mark Goddard stated that he had a "funny feeling" that something was wrong. Upon arriving at Kupcinet's apartment, the couple found her nude body lying on the couch. Mark Goddard initially assumed that she had died from a drug overdose.
Upon searching Kupcinet's apartment, police found prescriptions for Desoxyn, Miltown, Amvicel, and other medications. Authorities also found a note written by Kupcinet that reflected in some detail her emotions regarding issues in her life (i.e., parents, self-image, problems with boyfriend) and people she admired.
Investigators from the L. A. County Sheriff's Office determined that Kupcinet had told Andrew Prine by telephone the same story about the abandoned baby that she had told the Goddards, and it was false. Neither the sheriff's office nor the Los Angeles Police Department had received a report of a baby found abandoned anywhere in her apartment building on her last day alive or the previous day.
Alleged connection to JFK
Kupcinet's death was first mentioned in connection with the assassination of JFK in 1967 by researcher Penn Jones, Jr. in the self-published book Forgive My Grief II. Jones claimed that an AP wire service story about an unidentified woman who placed a phone call on November 22, 1963 from Oxnard, California, approximately 50 miles north of Los Angeles, was Kupcinet. The woman, who dialed her local operator approximately 20 minutes before the shooting in Dallas, stated that he was going to be shot. Jones alleged that the caller was Kupcinet, attempting to warn someone of the impending assassination. Jones claimed that Kupcinet was told of the assassination by her father (who was allegedly told by Jack Ruby, whom he met in Chicago in the 1940s). Jones speculated that her death was a result of a mob hit to silence her and to send a message to Irv Kupcinet to remain silent about his knowledge.
Irv Kupcinet denied that he or his daughter had prior knowledge of the assassination. This was supported by Karyn Kupcinet's friends, actor Earl Holliman, Holliman's then-girlfriend, and Karyn's boyfriend Andrew Prine, all of whom traveled to Palm Springs with Kupcinet on November 22. Kupcinet reportedly seemed upset and shocked about the assassination and did not reveal any foreknowledge of the event.
Penn Jones, Jr. made the Oxnard woman's telephone call the basis of a claim that Karyn Kupcinet was murdered in order to silence her before she could release supposedly explosive information about the Kennedy assassination. However, as with the claimed telephone call itself, this assertion has been widely dismissed. No actual evidence of a connection between Karyn Kupcinet (or her father) and conspirators has ever been produced.
Crime writer James Ellroy visited the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office in the 1990s to research Kupcinet's death. In his book Crime Wave, Ellroy states that sheriffs found a book that recommended naked dancing to free one's inhibitions lying on a table in her apartment. It had been placed on the table as if someone had removed it from a shelf and bookmarked the pages that explained the dancing. Ellroy has theorized that she followed the advice in the book, started dancing and fell, clipping her hyoid bone on a chair. He also theorized that Kupcinet may have accidentally or intentionally overdosed on pills.
Ellroy also claimed that the coroner who performed Kupcinet's autopsy, Dr. Harold Kade, who had been called from his bed at 2 a.m. to respond to the death, was a "juicehead" (alcoholic) who may have botched the autopsy.
Kupcinet's family have disputed Ellroy's theories and maintain that she was murdered.
During the production and subsequent release of Oliver Stone's film JFK, Irv Kupcinet attacked the movie and the conspiracy theories surrounding it. When the film's box office success led to a wave of media attention about the JFK conspiracy, NBC's Today Show broadcast a list of mysterious deaths, including that of Karyn Kupcinet. Irv Kupcinet responded to the Today broadcast in his column in the Chicago Sun-Times of February 9, 1992:
The NBC Today Show on Friday [February 7] carried a list of people who died violently in 1963 shortly after the death of President John F. Kennedy and may have had some link to the assassination. The first name on the list was Karyn Kupcinet, my daughter. That is an atrocious outrage. She did die violently in a Hollywood murder case still unsolved. That same list was published in a book years ago with no justification or verification. The book left the impression that some on the list may have been killed to silence them because of knowledge of the assassination. Nothing could be further from the truth in my daughter's case. The list apparently has developed a life of its own and for Today to repeat the calumny is reprehensible. Karyn no longer can suffer pain by such an inexcusable mention, but her parents and her brother Jerry can.
|1960 to 1961||Hawaiian Eye||Maila
|1961||The Donna Reed Show||Jeannie||Episode: "Mary's Little Lambs"|
|1961||The Ladies Man||Working Girl|
|1961 to 1962||The Gertrude Berg Show||Carol||3 episodes|
|1962||The Red Skelton Show||Janet - Secretary||Episode: "How to Fail..."|
|1962||G.E. True||Marybelle||Episode: "The Handmade Private"|
|1963||The Wide Country||Barbara Rice||Episode: "A Cry from the Mountain"|
|1963||Going My Way||Amy||Episode: "Has Anyone Seen Eddie?"|
|1964||Perry Mason||Penny Ames||Episode: "The Case of the Capering Camera"|
- Felsenthal, Carol (June 2004). "The Lost World of Kup". Chicago Magazine.
- Karyn Kupcinet at the Internet Movie Database
- Austin, John (1992). The Tales of Hollywood the Bizarre. SP Books. pp. 147–148. ISBN 1-56171-142-X.
- Lane, Lydia (1962-03-29). "No Starch, No Sweets". Los Angeles Times. p. C11.
- Ellroy, James (1999). Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. Random House, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 0-375-70471-X.
- Austin, John (1992). The Tales of Hollywood the Bizarre. SP Books. p. 150. ISBN 1-56171-142-X.
- Korman, Seymour (December 2, 1963). "4 Face Quiz in Starlet's Slaying". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
Four male friends of Karyn Kupcinet, 22, Hollywood starlet, have been asked to take lie detector tests in the investigation of her murder, police said tonight. ... Two of her friends, Mark Goddard, 27, a television actor, and his wife, Marcia, 25, daughter of Henry Rogers, Hollywood publicist, went there last night. ...
- Ellroy, James (1999). Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. Random House, Inc. p. 72. ISBN 0-375-70471-X.
- Ellroy, James (1999). Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. Random House, Inc. p. 71. ISBN 0-375-70471-X.
- Ellroy, James (1999). Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. Random House, Inc. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0-375-70471-X.
- Ellroy, James (1999). Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. Random House, Inc. p. 63. ISBN 0-375-70471-X.
- McAdams, John C. "Dead in the Wake of the Kennedy Assassination: Hollywood Homicide". Marquette University.
- Felsenthal, Carol (June 2004). "The Lost World of Kup". Chicago Magazine. p. 7. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
- Jones, Jr., Penn. "Papers of Penn Jones Jr. Kennedy Assassination Materials 1963-1998". Baylor Collections of Political Materials. Baylor University. Archived from the original on 2006-08-28.
- Fecteau, Paul (2005–2006). "Zapruder’s Stepchildren: The Most Fascinating People in J.F.K. Assassination Lore". Washburn University. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- Death of a Dream: Karyn Kupcinet: The E! True Hollywood Story. Yahoo TV.com.
- Severo, Richard (2003-11-11). "Irv Kupcinet, 91, Dies; Chronicled Chicago for 60 Years". New York Times.
- Shur, Cindy (2006-11-07). "Remembering Irv Kupcinet". Jewish United Fund.
- Fecteau, Paul. "A Search for Karyn Kupcinet". Washburn University.
- Austin, John. Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries. Shapolsky Publishers. 1990. ISBN 0-944007-49-X.
- Kupcinet, Irv and Paul Neimark. Kup: A Man, An Era, A City. Bonus Books. 1988. ISBN 978-0-933893-70-2.