Movie star Natalie Wood should be turning 80 today, but drowned in 1981 while on a weekend boat jaunt with her husband Robert Wagner and their friend Christopher Walken.
I've always been particularly drawn to her because my mom loved her — she was of my mom's era and close to her in age — and because I remember vividly hearing an announcement on the radio about her drowning, my father turning it up and saying, “Listen to this! I heard this earlier!” and my mom gasping.
I think that, in part, led to my extreme interest in celebrity mortality. I had been collecting obituaries already (Mae West, John Lennon) and this only made me more curious. I remember persuading a girl I was in class with to give me Raintree magazine ad with Wood's likeness that she'd brought in for some assignment. She wanted to know why I wanted it and I couldn't really say, so just told her I liked her. She parted with it, and I still own it.
Wood made some classic movies, especially Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story, Gypsy and Splendor in the Grass, but part of her appeal was just her glamour, her Liz Taylor-lite love life. It doesn't hurt that she was pals with Mart Crowley and was instrumental in helping get The Boys in the Band produced.