February 8, 1921 – June 29,1995
“I find men terribly exciting, and any girl who says she doesn’t is an anemic old maid, a streetwalker, or a saint.”
The woman explained herself quite well in the opening paragraph of her autobiography, LANA. I quote “One June evening in 1937, I sat in a Hollywood theatre, waiting for a preview of They Won’t Forget. I played a Southern schoolgirl, Mary Clay, who would be raped and murdered. An innocent teacher would be blamed and lynched before he came to trial. I hadn’t really understood the significance of the script, but I remember what I wore – a close-fitting sweater with patent-leather belt and a well-contoured skirt.”
This is the way this broad lived. Not an intellectual giant, but she always looked damn good.
Anyway, as legend has it, in 1936 Lana was attending Hollywood High School.
She ditched a typing class and went to a malt shop. It wasn’t Schwab’s as everyone used to think, but it was called The Top Hat. It’s long gone, but this is where it used to be.
We all know what happened there, so I won’t go into it. She was discovered.
She got famous.
I read one account that Lana was diagnosed with cervical cancer, in 1981.
Lana’s last home was a 12-room penthouse at 2170 Century Park East, in Century City.
She lived in suite 2006, on the twentieth floor. She called it her “ivory tower.”
In 1992, she was diagnosed with throat cancer. With treatment, she thought she had licked it, and announced in 1993 that she had recovered. Supposedly in remission, Lana started showing up on the Hollywood social scene. Guess what? It returned and spread to her esophagus.
One of Lana’s last public appearances was in September of 1994, when she attended the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. She was to accept a lifetime achievement award. She should have taken a note from Bette Davis about that one, and given it a miss. Friends and family tried to talk her out of attending, but she went anyway, in a wheelchair.
Check out those nails.
On March 6th 1995, Lana was admitted to Cedars Sinai Medical Center,
because her jaw and neck were severely swollen. At that point, she weighed only 85 pounds. One report stated that the doctors wanted to remove Lana’s jawbone. The actress supposedly replied, “My face was my fortune and I want to be able to look in a mirror right up until the end. I’m going to go out like a star.”
They treated her, and released her, stating that she “was in good spirits,” and “seems to be in good shape.”
Lana had her daughter Cheryl,
move in with her, to help nurse her. Lana had stopped eating, and had to be fed through a tube implanted in her stomach. She went through 7 weeks of radiation therapy, and seemed to be on the mend. But she wasn’t.
Lana died on Thursday the 29th of June 1995 just after 10 p.m, in her home. Her daughter was at her side. She was 74 years old.
Cheryl issued a statement: “This was a total shock. She was doing fine. She just took a breath and she was gone.”
Lana was cremated, and her ashes were given to her Cheryl. Cheryl and her girlfriend Josh scattered Lana’s ashes over Oahu, Hawaii.
In Lana’s will, she left Cheryl 50 grand. She left the rest of her estate to her “close friend and long-time employee, Carmen Lopez Cruz. Carmen claims to have been there the night of the murder, Cheryl denies it. Interesting.
Trivia: Lana was obsessed by the O.J. Simpson trial. “He’ll get off,” she predicted.
More: Lana dated Judge Wapner, when they were in high school together. Ew.
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2000:
Findadeath friend, Nancy Pedder, sends this info:
As much of a drama queen as she was on the screen, the real drama in her life was off screen, in her highly publicized affairs with men like Howard Hughes, Tyrone Power and Frank Sinatra.
8 marriages and 7 husbands were:
#1: Artie Shaw/bandleader/musician
#2: Josef Stephen Crane/restaurateur (she actually married this guy
again, 2 months after she divorced him!)
#3: Bob Topping/millionaire
#4: Lex Barker/actor
#5: Fred May/rancher
#6: Robert Eaton/businessman
#7: Ronald Dante/nightclub hypnotist
This is my favorite quote by Lana:
“A successful man is one who makes more money than a wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”
Sorta sums her up all in one gulp, don’t ya think?
It’s her all over! What a gal.
BTW, A&E did a biography on her recently, and they claim that only her maid was with her the night she died. As a matter of fact, they interviewed the maid, who described (in Spanish) how and when Lana died. The maid called her “Laneeta”, and claims she laid down in the bed with her and held her until she died. She kept saying to her “Oh no Laneeta, don’t go! Don’t leave me Laneeta”. (I know how you love this kind of morbid detail.) She claims that Cheryl was in Hawaii when her mother passed away.
The fact that she left the bulk of her estate to her maid and not her daughter, sort of explains the relationship she had with Cheryl. From what they reported, Lana left Cheryl her fur coats and a small amount of cash…. that’s it. The maid had been with her for over 40 years, and had been through everything with her, including the Johnny Stompanato thing, so she got it all.
Great stuff, Nancy. Thanks so much!
October 10, 1925 – April 4, 1958
This is really a prelude to the Lana death story, but I didn’t think it fair that he be up first.
In 1958, Lana was dating this gangster with a big dick called Johnny Stompanato. It was legendary. She had just rented a home in Beverly Hills on North Bedford Drive.
She was living with her daughter, Cheryl, 14, and a maid. Lana was trying to break off her relationship with Johnny, and he was having none of it.
On the evening of Good Friday, April 4, 1958 – they were having another argument in Lana’s bedroom (see the X on the photo). She was dumping him. Again. Cheryl was listening in the hallway. She heard Stompanato say, “You’ll never get away from me. I’ll cut you good, baby. No one will ever look at that pretty face again.” Charming.
Cheryl went down to the kitchen and got a 10-inch carving knife, as you do, and returned. Supposedly Cheryl was pounding on the door when Stompanato came storming out, her knife colliding with his chest, plunging in, and severing his aorta. His last words were, “My God, Cheryl, what have you done?” before he (WARNING OOGY PICTURE) collapsed into a fit of gurgles and died. Cause of death? A stab wound of the abdomen, penetrating liver, portal vein and aorta with massive hemorrhage.
March 2002, Findadeath.com friend EJ Fleming sends this in: I was poking around yesterday and noticed a couple of things. On the Lana Turner/Johnny Stompanato section, did you notice who the informant was listed as? “Michael Cohen.” Mickey Cohen, the mobster who was Stompanato’s boss. The address for Cohen listed on San Vicente Blvd. was a shop that he kept open as a front for a large book-making operation he ran out of the back room and basement.
My Gary Sweeney interviewed Cheryl in January of 2009, and she discusses the story in detail. Pretty gripping stuff, and lots of interesting Lana info.
Interested tidbits from Johnny’s autopsy report: in his stomach was either pea soup or coffee and cream. Apparently it’s difficult to tell it apart, posthumously. He was wearing a pair of black loafers (size 10 1/2) with tassels, gray wool socks, and silk boxers. An orange wood sweater (for the sweater girl) and black slacks. Also included in the Stompanato package to arrive at the morgue was one Cannon terrycloth hand towel, with 2 narrow and 1 wide stripe at each end. There, now won’t you sleep better knowing these details? Love it.
There was a viewing of his body here in LA and on April 8th, his body was shipped back to Woodstock, Illinois for burial.
His coffin was covered with a flag, for his service in the military.
Interestingly, Johnny’s family didn’t buy the Cheryl story, and sued Lana for almost a million bucks, for wrongful death. Lana sent em a check for 20 grand. That seemed to shut them up.
Email I received on August 2, 2000:
“Hi Scott, I am John Stompanato 3. I just want to say that John was not the person that everyone thought he was. He never swore or so ever even hit a woman. He was a kind and gentle man that fell in love with a Hollywood starlet, and was a victim of a crooked legal system as well as so many jealous people wanting the chance to try to so called snuff him out, and just assume that he was a gangster and which he never was, he was just a bodyguard.
I look forward to talking to you, John M Stompanato. John was my uncle”.
February 2001 – Findadeath.com friend Ann Aubin sends us:
Several months before Lana Turner died, I was working for a company that delivered groceries to peoples’ homes. I took the orders and since the store we used was kind of upscale, we had a bunch of celebrity types who ordered from us. One afternoon a Cheryl Crane called, wanting to set up an account for her mother. Of course I instantly think of the whole Johnny Stompanato thing, but how do you ask?
I start taking the mother’s info, and yep, it was for Lana. I went, “Oh, THAT Cheryl Crane,” and she laughed and said yes. She seemed very nice, though of course I’m thinking, wow, I’m talking to a KILLER!
Turns out Lana’s maid had broken her ankle, and Lana had to do the shopping herself. By chance, that evening Lana called and I happened to take her call. She was a very sweet, timid sounding woman. She kept asking me what she should get, and I went through her list with her, suggesting things. Her order wasn’t large & she didn’t get anything glamorous. I could picture her in a big white penthouse in Century City, relying on little ol’ $10/hour me to get her fed. It made me sort of sad.
When our company folded, I sent Lana a letter telling her it had been an honor to speak to her but I never got a reply. Not long after that, she died.
Wow, fun story. Thanks, Ann!
December 13 2001 – Findadeath.com friend Jim Today sends in this: I just thought it might be cool to note on the Lana Turner page the odd and rarely mentioned fact that the Woody Allen movie “September” which although somewhat laborious, co-opts the real life Lana/Cheryl/Stompanato story 30 years later with a sort of “What happened to them, and what was their relationship like later?” sort of thing. The trusty Woody muse Mia Farrow plays the killer daughter, and the brilliant Elaine Stritch does what she can as the movie star mother character. It isn’t very good, but it is rather interesting for the attempt. Lana also lived in the same building as the beloved Mary Wickes! Thanks, Jim!
This just in, July 2003, from Findadeath friend M.P. Chavez Berling:
Just as a FYI, Lana Turner’s husband’s restaurant was in Beverly Hills, California was called the Luau. My grandfather worked for them for many years from the early 1940’s when it was called the Tropics, to when Steven Crane bought the restaurant, and changed the name, to about three years prior to when it closed.
When he retired, after so many years of service, all they gave him was two uniform shirts, a pair of pants, his photos from the years he’d served, and a pair of shoes. So much for working for someone for 40+ years.
This just in January 2004, from Findadeath friend Dave Griffo:
> Love your site, I check it out all the time for updates!! Here’s some
new info regarding Lana, this is from both and the A&E Biography TV series and a Turner network show on Lana. Kinda shows she should’ve been in more comedies:
> Lana was once going to a press event/movie premiere and had her agent with
> her in the back of the limo. She pulled out a small, slim flask (always
> accessorize each outfit to the fullest !) and took a swig of whiskey. Her
> agent reminded her “We’ll be at the party in fifteen minutes, you can have
> a drink when we get there”, to which Lana replied “Yeah, but that’s fifteen
> minutes without a drink.”
> In the 1970’s Lana appeared in the play “Forty Carats” at various dinner
> theatres and was totally freaked-out at the appearance of one ticket-holder
> in particular. A stalker ? No. It was a woman in the front row who
> showed up with her hair in curlers ! The former MGM glamour-girl, whose
> studio-training probably included the admonition to never go out without
> looking PERFECT, was totally freaked-out and kept rhetorically asking
> “Where is she going tomorrow, that tonight she needs to show up to see ME
> with her hair still up in curlers?”
> Dave Griffo
Thanks for the info, Dave!
I just sat through The Postman Always Rings Twice. Can anyone please explain the significance of the title? I sat there with my jaw hitting the floor during the final scene. Ugh. I even rewound it. Maybe I’m the dolt. Nah.
My buddy, Gary, from Seeing Stars.com – check it out from the links – it’s great – sent me this explanation.
“In the original film, the lead actor gets into an illicit affair with a married woman, and they plot to murder her husband. They do, and they get away with it, being found innocent at the murder trial. However, as luck would have it, the woman is later accidentally killed herself, and her lover is wrongly convicted of her murder. So the irony is that he was found innocent of a murder he DID commit, but still ended
up being found guilty of murder – for a crime he DIDN’T commit. Hence the “always rings twice…” line.” Personally, I still don’t get it, but who am I?
January 25, 2000:
Findadeath.com friend Pat K. sent in this explanation, which I find preferable:
“I don’t know for sure if this is true but, the explanation I was given in a creative writing course AND a literature course is this. The author
had written a manuscript and sent it out to many publishers. When it was returned to him, rejected, the postman used the signal of ringing twice
to let the author know the manuscript was rejected once again.
As I said, I don’t know the validity of this but, I kind of like it!
The debate continues! Feb 10, 2000 – In the era when “The Postman Always Rings Twice” was written, mail was delivered twice a day. (Imagine that!) The reference is used in the movie as an allegory. The killer missed justice once, but justice (the postman) always rings twice. Thanks for writing, Don.
Johnny’s autopsy report and complete coroner’s inquest (with testimony! Fascinating!) is available from our friends at CelebrityCollectables.com. Tell ’em we sent ya!