KING CORONER: DEATH IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING
When LA Coroner THOMAS NOGUCHI, M.D. dissected the remains of Hollywood superstar WILLIAM HOLDEN after his sudden death, his analysis shocked not only Hollywood but the world.
When Noguchi who was then the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner announced that booze was the trigger in the rugged leading man’s death and not a homicide, the show biz industry was outraged.
“It appeared at first as If William Holden had been murdered,” Noguchi wrote in his best-selling book “Coroner”.
“He was found Nov. 16, 1981, clad only in a pajama top, on the floor in his luxurious Santa Monica apartments overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He had a deep gash in his forehead.
“Blood from the wound had literally soaked the bed sheets and the carpet. But the door to the apartment had been locked and nothing had been stolen.
“How could a world famous actor with so many friends die without anyone discovering it for four days?” Noguchi queried in the book.
Police had told media that the Oscar winner had died of natural causes, and then shipped Holden, the star of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Love is Many a Splendored Thing” off to the morgue.
Returning to the death scene, Noguchi noted that the star had remodeled his personal apartment to resemble the movie set of the Hong Kong setting of “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” – “black lacquered wood tables and rich oriental carpets.
Toxicology reports had raised eyebrows - Holden had died with .22 percent alcohol in his blood, more than double the .10 percent cops used to prove driving while intoxicated.
“On the bed itself I saw dried bloody Kleenex tissues …eight of them.”
A heavy teak table unable to be moved by a detective was jarred into the wall, an obvious imperfection in such an immaculately clean abode.
In the kitchen were found an empty quart bottle of vodka and another, partially empty, on the kitchen counter.
It was obvious now how the gutsy Hollywood he-man had died – collapsed in a boozy heap, he gashed his head against the massive teak table.
Immobilized by heavy alcohol consumption, Holden lay there trying to “stanch” the gash with a handful of Kleenex.
Noguchi later determined in the autopsy room back in the ME’s office that Holden had lived at least a half an hour before losing consciousness.
Sober, he might have been able to summon help as the telephone lay within reach -- spattered with blood dropping from Holden’s forehead.
When Noguchi finally released his report that Holden died from heavy intoxication and then bled out, Hollywood was shocked.
How could such a beloved leading man with everything to live for come to such a wretched end? How, indeed.
Ironically, Holden’s girl friend at the time of death was Stefanie Powers who was starring as Robert Wagner’s wife in the hit TV series “Hart to Hart”.
Tragically, Wagner’s wife Natalie Wood died mere weeks after Holden, drowning off the coast of Catalina Island after reputedly falling off their yacht “Splendour”.