Friday, June 5, 2009

Did David Carradine do a Michael Hutchence?

Wow. According to the Associated Press, David Carradine was found dead in the closet of his room at a luxury hotel in Bangkok, with, accoding to Thai Police, a rope "tied around his penis and another around his neck."

Contrary to initial speculation, his death may not have been suicide. Rather, it may have been either accidental suffocation, presumably an unintended consequence of an auto-erotic sex act (ala Michael Hutchence), or due to a heart attack following an orgasm. Autopsy results pending. If his death was indeed accidental, in light of that fact that he was 72 years old, is that inglorious? Or is it "amazing," in a Kill Bill sort of way?

I met David Carradine once. As a teenager I was invited to a comic book distributors' meeting in Los Angeles that was held on an unremarkable saturday morning in the summer of 1988 in an undecorated warehouse. I also met Jack Kirby that day. To my utter amazement, at one point in walked David Carradine.

As a child in the 1970s, I had been a big fan of the TV show "Kung Fu." So I recognized him instantly, even though he looked pale and "tired" and had a bit of a paunch that wasn't well hidden by the open collared shirt and polyesther sweat pants he was wearing. And was that a glass of scotch or bourbon he was casually and un-selfconsciously carrying around in his right hand? At 11 AM? (And where did he get that? No one else was drinking.)
Nonetheless, he was the biggest star in the room that day. He knew it and so did everyone else. And while he may have been a shadow of his former self, he still radiated some star power. He wasn't very chatty (at least as far a I saw). But he was amiable, in a distant sort of way.

Above is a picture taken that day, with me as a teenager, Jack Kirby and David Carradine (and in the background, Jim Valentino, who years later would go on to co-found Image Comics).

Accidental death or no, I will try to remember the David Carradine in that photo, with a bourboun dangling listlessly from his hand, rather than the rope dangling from penis image that keeps forcing itself, unwanted, to the front of my mind as I write this.


  1. Great work, Dan - you make it look like anyone can do a blog, and we all know that is not the case.

    You are providing an invaluable public service.
    I would nominate your blog for a Pulitzer, but I am not on the committee that does that.


    Barry Shotts
    San Francisco, CA

  2. I am a blogger on the scene in Bangkok at the hotel where Carradine died and am blogging about this on


    The announcer for the BBC breaks the story on TV. David Carradine was found dead in the Swiss Hotel on Soi Nailert. The film star was found in the closet of his room bound by curtain rope around his neck, and the inference is that his genitals were bound as well. The news ran through the Bangkok film colony like a forest fire.

    I consult investigative journalist David Walker. He is also a screenwriter and author of the cult classic book, Hello My Big Big Honey. Walker is at the hotel. He has already led a CBS crew to legendary film producer-director David Winters penthouse office. Winters is a dear friend of Carradine from their glory days in Hollywood. Walker wants to see the surveilance tapes. No chance Bagger Vance. Dr. Pornthip, a colorful Thai forensic scientist is on the scene at the hotel. Walker says Pornthip, who is famous for sporting many hued punk hair styles and is a bit of a celebrity,delares the case to be death by auto sexual strangulation.

    I roll up to Winters penthouse office. He is devastated by the tragic loss of a dear friend. He has not slept. CBS and People Magazine have already come by to solicit intelligence. David is shocked by the tawdry inferrences. He has spoken to 3 of Carradines agents. The agents declare that Carradine was on the roll of a lifetime. Quentin Tarantino redefined the 72 year old actor in Kill Bill. Carradine recieved a Golden Globe nomination for his work with Tarantino. The actor of the classic cult TV series Kung Fu had starred in 13 motion pictures since Kill Bill. His salary was in the stratosphere.

    The strange circumstances of the verdict by auto- sexual strangulation trouble Winters. It takes two to tango. Why indeed would a man of his talent take his own life alone. Bangkok is known as a city with love for sale. Film people come here to shoot and avail themselves of the pleasures to be found in the gilded city of sin. Kinky sex is no big deal. Could this be a coverup for a sex robbery murder. The Royal Thai Police have shut the door on this case all too quickly. The tourist industry has been severely damaged by the recession and political instability. The murder of a famous film star would be a final nail in the coffin of the tourism industry. Winters says that Carradine, son of John , iconic members of an American cinema dynasty were above the fray. David Carradine was according to Winters a consumate gentleman, a brilliant actor, and a man for all seasons.

    I run into local film producer Tom Waller at a reception hosted by the Italian Embassy. Tom does not believe in the verdict of death by auto-sexual strangulation. He concludes that it was a sex robbery gone wrong, and that to cover the motives the body had been arranged to fit the profile of death by auto- sexual strangulation, a theory once confined to the genre of novels classified as psychological thrillers. The denizens of the film colony in Bangkok are incredulous at the grisly circumstances of the sad demise of this brilliant talent.

    The reception is attended by beaucoup des artistes and cineastes. Film critic Nick Palevski and I schmooze at the bar. Between glasses of vino rosso and spumante Nick expresses his distaste for the tawdy belching of the media and press. He is the critic for Auteur, a web site devoted to film criticism. He can not believe the shabby and sensational manner in which this case is being exploited.

    more to follow on

  3. Yes,the way David Carradine left the curious to say the least,but in time we'll remember him more for his contributions and how he treated others.


  4. at least Carradine got a lot of living in before he passed on, RIP