Monday, November 29, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Death of Natalie Wood

The death of Natalie Wood is the first celebrity death I can remember clearly; as I was only 11 at the time, though, I was unfamiliar with much of her work (though I knew who she was), and aside from the inherent tragedy of it in those days I was probably more affected by the death of a pretty lady than a great artist...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOn this day in 1981 Wood and her husband Robert Wagner had moored their yacht The Splendor at Catalina Island; the three were celebrating Thanksgiving with their friend, Christopher Walken - with whom Wood was making a film called Brainstorm - when just before midnight she slipped into the water and drowned.

Stories differ on what happened next; some insist the threesome had been all good cheer as they spent the afternoon ashore. Others claim that Wagner, possibly jealous, argued with Wood either over the attention Walken was giving her, or vice versa.

Whether she was attempting to go ashore via dinghy when she fell into the water, or whether she clung to the dinghy in an attempt to save herself, famed coroner Thomas Noguchi found rubber under Wood's fingernails at the autopsy. He also found that she was drunk (but not overly so) at the time of death, and reasoned that had she not been wearing a heavy coat and sweater she might have survived, as she'd received no head trauma in the fall. In any event, he ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Still, a credible witness (onboard another yacht nearby) reported hearing a woman splashing around in the water for at least a half an hour that night, and also reported that her cries for help were lacklustre at best, so she assumed the woman she heard was just fooling around; only the next day did she learn, along with the world, that it was Natalie Wood she'd heard drowning the previous night.

But wait... You haven't heard the really creepy part yet: Natalie Wood had a lifelong fear of dark water and drowning, following a childhood accident in which she fell into dark water and almost drowned.
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Wynn Kozak said...

I remember it clearly as I was a fan of hers. It was so tragic and at the time hugely suspicious however, in hindsight, if she was 'drunk' she possibly just slipped and fell in. However, why didnt the two men notice her absence or hear her cries for help?

michael sean morris said...

If she was so afraid of water why was she even on a boat?