COLUMNS

Celebrity coroner still speaking out

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • January 04, 2006

by Karen Feld

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“The dead help the living,” the flamboyant longtime Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, 79, told me over dinner earlier this week. Although officially retired, the coroner – who started the Crime Scene Investigation program – is still consulting and was recently honored by the National Association of Medical Examiners. He’s a former president of that organization.Noguchi says he still gets calls about some of his high-profile cases – Marilyn Monroe, Bobby Kennedy, Janis Joplin and Natalie Wood. Noguchi, who didn’t own a TV set at the time, said he remembers calling a friend and asking: “Who is John Belushi?”

He said that when dealing with celebrity cases, many “unexpected things” happen. After Noguchi conducted the autopsy on Ronald Reagan‘s close pal, actor William Holden, Frank Sinatra demanded that he be fired for revealing that Holden’s blood alcohol content was 0.22 percent. As a result, Noguchi was demoted to a lower-profile position, but he laughed when he told me his salary was raised.

Noguchi said he revealed the information to warn other people: “Pathologists help the living by warning people: ‘These are the results.’ ” A couple episodes of the TV series “Quincy” about an outspoken morgue worker are said to be based on this colorful character.

‘That’s what friends are for’

Musical legend Dionne Warwick is celebrating 45 years in showbiz. David Gest, Liza Minnelli‘s most recent ex, pre-sold to Showtime a TV salute to Dionne to be broadcast from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Jan. 26. Liza, we hear, wants a similar tribute for her 60th birthday on March 12. Since she paid Gest $10 million to divorce her, it’s not likely that he’ll pony up for that one. But we do hear that her bash, planned for the Met in New York on March 8, is now being shopped for a TV deal.

McClellan’s independent mom running again

Spunky Texas comptroller and “Republican” gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn has decided to run as an independent against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, who she’s called “weak leadin’.” An independent is about as close to a Democrat as you can get in those parts. Strayhorn was the first female mayor of Austin, and switched her affiliation to Republican in 1985. Two of her sons from a previous marriage hold high-visibility jobs in the Bush administration: Scott McClellan, who was her campaign manager three times, is White House press secretary and Mark McClellan is director of Medicare. Another son, Brad McClellan, is a former assistant attorney general for Texas. Although Mama Strayhorn has almost as many names as Elizabeth Taylor, she is more often compared to another outspoken Texas politician, former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, who is certainly no fan of President Bush.

When the colorful gal married jewelry designer and businessman Ed Strayhorn, she saved taxpayers the cost of new stationery: She crossed out “Rylander” on the existing stationery and wrote in “Strayhorn.” We’ll wait and see if Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., follows that lead.

Former pol heads for the California desert

Sighting: Former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., and his wife house-hunting in Indian Wells, Calif. Former President Gerald Ford and former Rep. Tom Railsback, R-Ill., live in the desert nearby.

Jacobs doesn’t mince words

Former Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr., D-Ind., sent me the following thought bite for the new year: “They who say our president opened a can of worms in Iraq are just plain wrong; it’s more like a barrel of snakes.”

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