02 July 2009

Tributes, Mourning Greet Malden Death

Increasingly reclusive in recent years, Malden is shown here in a rare public outing. The actor’s bizarre physical appearance led to speculation in the press and among his fans.

[FROM WIRE SERVICE REPORTS] LOS ANGELES - - News networks suspended their regular programming and hordes of fans, many of them dressed in copies of their hero’s iconic costumes, gathered to grieve as word of the death of actor Karl Malden spread yesterday. No cause of death was cited, leading to speculation on the Internet and on Twitter of foul play or drug overdose, fueled by cryptic remarks from Malden’s entourage. “It could be a combination of things,” the actor’s manager, Bud Ross, told CNN. “He was 97.”

Members of the Malden family have called publicly for an autopsy, and the family physician, who was present at the time of death, has been questioned by Los Angeles police. Rumors, never confirmed, suggest that the actor may have been a Method addict.

“I didn’t come here to remember the scandals,” said fan Richard Glatzer of the actor’s notorious private life, which included at least one 70-year-long marriage. Dressed in a priest’s habit like that worn by Malden in On the Waterfront, Glatzer continued, “I came to celebrate the artist. This is a time for the world to join together in remembering a man who did so much for all mankind.”

Fans like these, wearing precise replicas of the actor’s costumes,
joined outside the Malden home to sing his best-known hits.

Nearby outside the Malden home, other fans wore clerical collars, like those worn by Malden in The West Wing, The Great Impostor, and Pollyanna, while others wore elaborate military regalia similar to that which the eccentric actor favored in such hits as Bombers B-52, Operation Secret, and Patton.

“I could have been a contender!” shouted young fan Grace Kidd, wearing a detective’s uniform and a torn T-shirt. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers! Stella!”

It was impossible to count the fedoras, similar to that worn by Malden in The Streets of San Francisco and many American Express commercials. Gavin Doughtie wore a suit in the blazing California sun. “It’s a lightweight alpaca,” he explained. “I don't like to wear a wash-coat even in the summer because I sweat right through it.”

Many sang “Together, Wherever We Go,” from Malden’s classic album, Gypsy, quoted beloved lines of dialogue, and traded memorabilia, lending the scene an oddly festive atmosphere even amid the tears.

Television networks devoted hours of airtime to tributes and analysis, leading Washington Post scribe Tom Shales to dub CNN “The Michael Douglas Network.” ABC, CBS, NBC and the Food Channel will air hour-long prime-time retrospectives tonight.

Online gossip columnists were quick to point out the failure to participate of such colleagues as Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, and George C. Scott, all of whom reportedly failed to respond to invitations to appear on programs devoted to Malden. “Steiger a No-Show! Was there bad blood between Karl and Rod?” syndicated columnist Gayle Baigleman asked.

As news of the actor’s death spread, Los Angeles police struggled to maintain order. Disturbances were also reported in the streets of San Francisco.

Speaking on behalf of the Malden family, the Reverend Al Sharpton called for calm, unity and dignity in the aftermath of the tragedy. Among the unanswered questions are the disposition of Malden’s estate, in Brentwood, CA, and the custody of his daughters, Mila (also known as “Mila”) and Carla (“Carla”), both in their sixties. “Those poor, fatherless little girls need someone to protect them,” observed area resident Wendy Lawless.

A spokesman for Diana Ross said that no comment would be made at this time.


ABC in WFTX said...

Aw, shoot! No pic of Gavin!

Rhoda Penmark said...

You certainly started my week with a big smile. This and Casta Diva - such a clever young lad. Now if I could only get my husband to turn off the damn Phillip Glass on the radio it would be a nice day.