This weekend, while bloggers were disseminating and their readers were getting high off the contents of Paris Hilton’s hacked-into Sidekick and the FBI was in hot pursuit of the responsible party or parties, the obit writers of the nation were working overtime with a payday of celebrity deaths. Self-indulgent “gonzo” journalist Hunter Thompson, who singlehandedly opened the door for singularly bad writers to get a foothold in publishing, died by shooting himself in the head. He was 65. Eighty-eight-year-old singer John Raitt, father of Bonnie and originator of the Billy Bigelow character in the musical Carousel, died yesterday of pneumonia at his home in Pacific Palisades.
But almost too sad is the death at 62 of all-American girl-next-door Hollywood teen idol Sandra Dee. She died of kidney failure in a hospital in Thousand Oaks after being on dialysis for four years. The onetime model and cover girl is best known for starring in such fare as Gidget, A Summer Place, Come September, Imitation of Life, and a trio of Tammy sequels. She played opposite box-office favorites like Rock Hudson, Troy Donahue, Lana Turner, Peter Fonda, and June Allyson, and was voted one of Hollywood’s top-10 moneymakers in 1960 and in 1961. In 1960, she married fellow teen idol, singer Bobby Darin, after dating him for one month. They were divorced in 1967.
Dee’s last feature film was “The Dunwich Horror” (1970), although she appeared in made-for-TV films throughout the decade. Although the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” in the 1978 film “Grease” brought her renewed attention, Dee led a generally reclusive life in recent years. Her last credit was for the 1983 movie “Lost.” In a 1991 interview with People magazine, she said that she was sexually abused as a child by her stepfather and that she was pushed into stardom by her mother. She said she had battled depression, alcohol and anorexia, and had hit bottom after her mother died in 1988. She credited her son with helping her recover.