"TV shows don't kill people . . . but final episodes sure do!"
That's the shocking claim from experts who insist that legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra's fatal heart attack was actually a result of the Final Episode Curse--a bizarre jinx that strikes a death blow whenever a television series ends!
For 82 years, the fast-living, hard-drinking Chairman of the Board did it his way--and not even a whopping laundry list of health woes could force him to throw in the towel.
But in the end, the scooby-dooby superstar was simply no match for the final installment of "Seinfeld," the much-hyped ratings-grabber that aired just hours before the singer's May 14 death.
Incredible as it sounds, insiders insist Ol' Blue Eyes is just the latest celebrity to be struck dead by the strange TV hex!
Although television industry insiders claim they've long known about the killer curse, the "Seinfeld"/Sinatra death link is the first time anyone has publicly acknowledged the dreaded whammy.
"It sounds crazy, I know, but it's a scientific fact," says a top episodologist who's been tracking the curse for years. "Since the dawn of television, people have been dying whenever a final episode from any series has aired. But it took Sinatra's death to open people's eyes. If you don't believe me, check the obits."
To test the unbelievable theory, New Times' research team painstakingly cross-referenced the dates of several dozen randomly selected celebrity deaths against last-episode air dates listed in a TV almanac. Amazingly, the astonishing results far exceed statistical coincidence and will force even the most hardened skeptic to accept the reality of the horrific hex.
Consider this sampling of the overwhelming evidence:
* The ill-fated "The Mary Tyler Moore Hour" leaves the air on June 10, 1979--the very next day, Western superstar John Wayne dies!
* "Gentle Ben" leaves the air on August 31, 1969; that same day, the "final episode" curse KO's heavyweight boxing champ Rocky Marciano in a tragic plane crash!
* The geriatric gumshoes on "The Snoop Sisters" solve their last case on August 20, 1974. Buford Pusser, the no-nonsense sheriff whose exploits inspired the movie "Walking Tall," dies the following day!
* "That Girl," the perky Marlo Thomas sitcom, signs off on September 10, 1971; within 24 hours, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev is dead!
* Although officials blame a drug OD for the September 18, 1970, death of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, some believe the musician was really a victim of a "final episode" double whammy. Series enders of both "Here Come the Brides" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" air the same day he dies!
Actors, sports figures, world leaders: Top curse experts agree that no one--not even couch potatoes--is safe from the video voodoo that's turning every TV cancellation notice into a potential death certificate.
"Frankie never had a chance against the last 'Seinfeld,'" concludes one longtime curse observer. "Still, I think Ol' Blue Eyes would have wanted it this way. A day earlier and he would have been done in by the 'Ellen' finale. She wasn't his kind of broad. Now, THAT would have killed him."
"Lucy" Kids Cheat TV Death Whammy!
Hell hath no fury like a final episode aired!
So say top cursologists who've compiled this mind-boggling list of calamity, murder, even suicide--all directly traceable to the last segments of various television series!
* Just one day after longtime panelist Dorothy Kilgallen makes her last appearance on "What's My Line?" (the chin-challenged columnist suddenly dies within hours of taping the show), a massive power outage plunges the Eastern seaboard into darkness! At least three deaths are attributed to the November 8, 1965, blackout.
* Perhaps despondent because ABC airs the last network episode of "Batman" that day, noted Washington, D.C., newspaper reporter Damon Runyon Jr. leaps to his death from a bridge on April 14, 1968!
* One of the most notorious clunkers in TV history, "My Mother the Car," permanently conks out on September 6, 1966. Eerily, South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd is stabbed to death by an assassin during a session of Parliament!
* School's out forever for Tootie, Natalie, Mrs. Garrett and the rest of "The Facts of Life" gang on September 10, 1988. But death and destruction take no recess in Port-au-Prince, Haiti--where weeks of violence culminate in a blood-drenched donnybrook that kills 17 and injures more than 70 other rioters.
Yet for all its destructive power, the curse thankfully misses its mark on rare occasions. Such was the case when CBS broadcast the last original episode of "I Love Lucy" on May 7, 1957. Earlier that very day, a school nurse at Phoenix's Papago School sent home 275 students suffering from swollen glands!
"It was touch and go for a while, but Lucy pulled through for those kids," says one longtime jinxologist familiar with the case. "They cheated death, that's for sure. I guess you could say that was the day the hex went on hiatus."
Death Jinx Payback!
Did a "final episode" death-curse payback from beyond the grave cost Frank Sinatra his greatest screen role?
That's the question that still haunts curse researchers more than 40 years after the hotheaded star stormed off the set of "Carousel"--only to be replaced in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical by singer Gordon McRae.
"Frankie wanted that part so bad he could taste it," says one show-biz insider. "Sure, the role of Billy Bigelow couldn't have been more different from the off-screen happy-go-lucky Frank. In the movie, the character's a philandering cad who roughs up women and consorts with criminals. But Ol' Blue Eyes wanted to show off his dramatic range."
Officially, Sinatra walked off the picture because the studio was experimenting with a new wide-screen process that necessitated shooting every scene twice; when producers refused to double his salary, he quit. (Ironically, however, soon after Sinatra's departure, technicians developed a process making the extra photography unnecessary.)
But according to curse experts, the real reason Sinatra never starred in "Carousel" stems from "The Frank Sinatra Show," a CBS TV variety show the singer headlined in the early Fifties.
Following the show's final installment on April 1, 1952, the curse took the life of Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar--author of "Liliom," the very play on which "Carousel" was based!
"With that curse working against him, there's no way Frank was ever going to play the merry-go-round operator in 'Carousel,'" says the insider. "What goes around, comes around!"
Rerun for Your Life!
A Cavalcade of Curse Victims -- and the Shows that Killed Them!
Silent-Screen Vamp Theda Bara/"I Married Joan" (4/7/55)
Comedienne Marion Davies/"The Ann Sothern Show" (9/21/61)
Actress Dorothy Dandridge/"MISTER Ed" (9/8/65)
Artist Edward Hopper/"Hey, Landlord!" (5/14/67)
Raconteur Dorothy Parker/"The Danny Kaye Show" (6/7/67)
"Bowery Boy" Leo Gorcey/"Peyton Place" (6/2/69)
Novelist J.R.R. Tolkien/"Lidsville" (9/1/73)
Character actor Billy DeWolfe/"The Partridge Family" (3/5/74)
Jazz great Duke Ellington/"The Girl With Something Extra" (5/24/74)
Writer Rod Serling & musician Tim Buckley/"Kung Fu" (6/28/75)
Actor Charles Boyer/"Tabitha" (8/25/78)
B-movie director Ed Wood Jr./"Rhoda" (12/9/78)
Ted "Lurch" Cassidy/"Grandpa Goes to Washington"
Director Frank Capra/"thirtysomething