December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999
“Roger, give me your belt.”
What’s Happening!! was around for about 2 and a half years. Still, it remains in a lot of our minds. Mostly because of Dee, the smart ass daughter. She made that show. The others were mildly funny. Shirley Hemphill was good though, but the fat jokes ran thin. Don’t get me going on Rerun. Manomanomanoman. Characters do NOT get more annoying than this guy, and according to our pals at The Smoking Gun, he isn’t finished yet.
I mentioned this one incident I had with Ms. King on another page somewhere in the archives of Find a Death – but I’ll relive it for you. A couple of years ago, a pal and I went to the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, to visit Stanley Kramer. This guy was really old and really ill, and now he’s really dead. While we were waiting for Stanley to wake up, I peeked into the room next to him, and there was Mabel. She was a large, legless lady. Her eyes were really bulging, and she beckoned me forward with a large hand, with gigantic fingernails like talons – beckoning me. Slowly, I approached her. She wanted to have a cigarette. So, I opened her door, wheeled her out there, and smoked with her. So, after it was over, I left her, and my friend and I went to see Stanley.
On the way out, there was Mabel, beckoning me with those fingers again. She wanted to go for a stroll. I had some free time, so I took her out the front entrance, and we smoked some more.
She didn’t want to go back in. Not. At. All. After about 20 minutes of trying to convince her I had to leave, finally (and I feel terrible about this) I told her I would come back in a couple of days, and see her again. In the back of my mind I thought I could, but knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t hurt her feelings, and I couldn’t stick it out. So, I ditched Mabel. I didn’t kill her tho. I don’t mean to be (too) disrespectful, but this is what she looked like that day.
In 1986, she lost a toe to diabetes. In 1989 she had a stroke, leaving her left side paralyzed, and virtually speechless for over a year. Her son died of cirrhosis, because of a drug problem. One of the last things he did was try to con Mabel out of 50 bucks. Around this time she lost the will to live, but friends organized a benefit for her, which cheered her immensely. It made enough money to get her a new wheelchair, and a new outlook on her sad, miserable life. A couple of years later, she almost died while they tried replacing her hip. Man, I feel for her. Still, she thought she was blessed.
There is some amount of smoke screen about Mabel, though. I heard through the celeb grapevine, before she even died, that some ambulance people dropped her, and injured her pretty seriously. That’s how I heard she was put up in the Motion Picture Country Home. It is a fact that she fell out of her wheelchair at some point, and got her top teeth knocked out. Sad. Allegedly, the MPCH put her up, to stop her from suing. Who knows. Her last home belonged to Vickie L. Chamberlain, who had power of attorney over Mabel. Something definitely happened there. I wonder what the real story is.
At the time of her death, Mabel was living on Exhibit Court.
Here is the house.
It was no secret she was ill. They were already taking her away, piece by piece. On the 9th of November, 1999, she was in the Kaiser Foundation Hospital, also in Woodland Hills.
She had been on dialysis for years, and finally her kidneys shut down at 3:55 in the morning.
She was 66 years old.
Momma was cremated, and her ashes given to Miss Chamberlain, and from the looks of it, Miss Chamberlain split from the house, so God only knows where Mabel is now. Hope she is resting in the peace she deserves.
Very weirdly, at least I think, the obituary didn’t hit the papers until the 24th. Almost 2 weeks after her death. The Los Angeles Times, which runs obits on EVERYONE in show business, never ran one for Mabel. When I emailed the woman there and asked why, she told me it’s not news anymore, and it’s too late. It’s probably just some legal thing, but I sure am curious to know the real story about what happened to Mabel.
Trivia: Her birth name was Donnie Mabel Elizabeth Washington. When the stars regrouped to make What’s Happening Now, Mabel asked for more money. She didn’t get it. The show went on without her. The show sucked.
More: She played the witch Evillene in the Broadway and film versions of The Wiz. She loved macaroni pie. This is her recipe, from the book, Cooking In Oz.
She was also Steve Martin’s mother in The Jerk, and her last appearance was in Scrooged.
My friend Sadie from The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a recipe in it too. Buy the book here! Cooking in Oz : Kitchen Wizardry
Findadeath.com friend Randy Nyerges sends this in: She was a conservative Republican, and in 1984 was a featured speaker at the Lincoln Memorial for a “Blacks for Reagan” rally. She spoke very passionately in support of Ronald Reagan’s re-election.
Big thanks to Steve Goldstein of beneathlosangeles.com for his photographs, and Mike Steen for the death certificate. You guys are great supporters, and I consider you good friends.