Roberta Lynn Kupcinet
March 6, 1941
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||November 28, 1963 (aged 22)|
|Cause of death||Homicide|
|Resting place||Memorial Park Cemetery and Crematorium|
|Alma mater||Pine Manor College|
Karyn Kupcinet (born Roberta Lynn Kupcinet; March 6, 1941 – November 28, 1963) was an American stage, film, and television actress. She was the only daughter of Chicago newspaper columnist and television personality Irv Kupcinet.
Karyn Kupcinet had a brief acting career during the early 1960s. Six days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, her body was found at her West Hollywood, California home. With her death officially ruled an unsolved homicide, and occurring so close to the JFK assassination, her name has become one of hundreds added to the multiplicity of theories that emerged after the assassination. In the 1960s, Irv Kupcinet publicly dismissed the theories linking his daughter to the president's death. In 1992, The Today Show referred briefly via a caption to her alleged connection to the assassination, which prompted Irv Kupcinet to describe the television broadcast as "an atrocious outrage" and "calumny". Karyn Kupcinet's death 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 City.
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 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, Going My Way, The Andy Griffith Show, and Death Valley Days. 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.
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.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department later determined Kupcinet had delivered 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 anonymous messages that had been Scotch-taped to the door of his Los Angeles house, 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 Rubin and he 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 around 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, investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office 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 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office determined that the story Kupcinet had told the Goddards about an abandoned baby on her doorstep, which she had also told Andrew Prine by telephone, 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 the day before or after Kupcinet's murder.
During the course of their investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department named Andrew Prine as one of their chief suspects. When questioned by law enforcement, Prine said he had talked with Kupcinet twice by phone on Wednesday, the day before her murder, claiming he was trying to patch up a lover's quarrel between them. Detectives considered it possible that after Prine learned the anonymous threat letters both he and Kupcinet had received had been created by Kupcinet herself, that and their unresolved argument gave him a motive for murder. In addition, both Edward Rubin and Robert Hathaway, the two men who had possibly been the last to see her alive, were friends of Prine. They were also eventually named as suspects.
In 1988, Kupcinet's father Irv published a memoir in which he revealed that he and his wife Essee believed that Andrew Prine had nothing to do with their daughter's murder. He was suspicious of a person, still alive when he wrote his memoir, who had no connection to Prine.
Alleged connection to JFK
Kupcinet's death was first mentioned in connection with the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1967 by researcher Penn Jones Jr. in the self-published book Forgive My Grief II. Jones cited an Associated Press wire service story about an unidentified woman who placed a phone call on November 22, 1963, from the vicinity of Oxnard, California, about fifty miles northwest of Los Angeles, and Jones claimed this woman was Kupcinet.
The woman, who dialed her local operator roughly twenty minutes before the shooting of the president in Dallas, stated that he was going to be shot. Jones alleged that "Karyn Kupcinet" was attempting to warn someone of the impending assassination. Jones claimed that she was told of the imminent assassination by her father, who allegedly had been given advance notice by Oswald's killer Jack Ruby, whom Irv Kupcinet may have met in Chicago in the 1940s.
Jones speculated Kupcinet had been murdered by representatives of the Italian-American Mafia who silenced her and sent a message to her father to remain silent about why President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot and who was actually responsible.
Irv Kupcinet denied that he or his daughter had prior knowledge of the shootings of the president or Oswald. This was supported by Kupcinet's friends, actor Earl Holliman, Holliman's then-girlfriend, and Karyn's boyfriend Andrew Prine, all of whom traveled to Palm Springs with Karyn on November 22. Kupcinet reportedly seemed upset and shocked about television and radio coverage of the shootings that she saw and heard in Palm Springs. She did not reveal any foreknowledge of the events.
In 2013, the Ventura County Star commemorated the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination with a long article about the unknown woman who had used a phone in the vicinity of Oxnard, 50 miles away from Karyn Kupcinet's home, immediately before the assassination. Citing FBI documents that were declassified decades after the events of November 1963, the Ventura County Star article claims that two telephone operators with General Telephone Company who listened to the unknown woman talking for approximately fifteen minutes gave the FBI a description of her voice. FBI agents questioned the two operators several hours after the assassination. Their description of the woman's voice did not match Kupcinet's, especially in regard to Kupcinet's age. The 2013 Ventura County Star article adds that the two operators believed the woman on the phone was "mentally disturbed".
Regarding Irv Kupcinet's alleged connection to Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who fatally shot President Kennedy's accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, the Warren Commission did not find any proof that Kupcinet had interacted with Ruby in Chicago before 1947, when Ruby moved from Chicago to Dallas. The Commission questioned many Chicagoans who had interacted with Ruby. None of them had prior knowledge that he was going to shoot Oswald.
During the production and subsequent release of Oliver Stone's film JFK, Irv Kupcinet attacked the movie and the 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.
- Lane, Lydia (March 29, 1962). "No Starch, No Sweets". Los Angeles Times. p. C11.
- Austin, John (1992). The Tales of Hollywood the Bizarre. SP Books. pp. 147–148. ISBN 1-56171-142-X.
- 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 November 5, 2009.
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 November 7, 2007.
- Stephan Benzkofer (November 24, 2013). "Karyn Kupcinet 1963 death still unsolved". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
- Phil Potempa (November 29, 2013). "OFFBEAT: Chicago gossip columnist Kup never forgot beloved daughter". Northwest Indiana Times. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
- Kupcinet, Irving (1988). Kup: A Man, An Era, A City. Bonus Books. pp. 186–188. ISBN 0-933893-70-1.
- 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 August 28, 2006.
- Fecteau, Paul (2005–2006). "Zapruder's Stepchildren: The Most Fascinating People in J.F.K. Assassination Lore". Washburn University. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Mystery Oxnard-area caller whispers about JFK's death minutes before shooting, Ventura County Star, November 21, 2013
- "Appendix 16: A Biography of Jack Ruby". Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. p. 786.
- Death of a Dream: Karyn Kupcinet: The E! True Hollywood Story. Yahoo TV.com.
- Severo, Richard (November 11, 2003). "Irv Kupcinet, 91, Dies; Chronicled Chicago for 60 Years". New York Times.
- Shur, Cindy (November 7, 2006). "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.