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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 24, 2017 PAGE 9 ABOUT THIS & THAT with Daniel A. DiCenso What Killed Superman? George Reeves as Superman. Larger than life and, for many, larger than death. One thing is sure, it wasn't kryptonite. Another thing is sure, George Reeves died in his bedroom of a gunshot wound to the head on June 16, 1959. There are other known facts. At the time of Reeves' death, his fiancee Leonore Lemmon, a biographer named Richard Condon, and two other friends (William Bliss and neighbor Carol Van Ronkel) were at his house. He died between 1:30 and 2:00 am and, above all, he was immortalized to every American child as Superman. The official report states that Reeves committed suicide, and while it's not surprising that, some fans simply refused to accept that, the truth is there are, to this day, a number of troubling discrepancies and holes in the story. The first seems innocuous, but does set the tone for the weird tale to follow. According to Condon he had gone out with Reeves and Lemmon to a bar that evening and, once there, Reeves and Lemmon got into a spat. After they calmed down a little, they left the bar and Condon followed them home where they were joined by Bliss and Van Ronkel. However, Lem- mon would later tell reporters that the three had not gone to a bar, but rather to watch Reeves' friend, wrestler Gene LeBell, at a wrestling match. However, while it was confirmed that LeB- ell did indeed fight that night, he later had no recollection of seeing Reeves or Lemmon at the wrestling ring that night. Whatever the case, once the party arrived at Reeves' home in Los Angeles's Benedict Canyon; Reeves retreated to his bedroom upstairs around midnight still upset over the argument. There can only be speculation over the cause of the argument between Reeves and Lemmon, and if other factors were tormenting Reeves at the time. Lending credence to the suicide ruling are rumors that Reeves had become so engraved into the public's mind as Superman that he could get no other role and found himself a victim of his own success. Others, includ- ing friend Noel Neill, while not necessarily negating the suicide verdict, did say, "i am not aware of anyone who wanted George dead. I never said I thought George was murdered. I just don't know'what happened. All I know is that George always seemed happy to me, and I saw him two days before he died, and he was still happy then." One does have to wonder ff Lemmon did carry a concern over how she and Reeves came together. About three years after divorcing Ellanora Needles, his wife of ten years, Reeves began an affair with Toni Mannix, a showgirl then mar- ried to M-G-M's General Man- ager Eddie Mannix. Mannix was eight years Reeves' senior and, it was during their affair that Reeves fell into a depression over his role as Superman. He felt stuck in a rut and wanted to start his own production company. In 1958, Reeves left Mannix for Lemmon, who was nine years his junior, announc- ing their engagement soon after. As their wedding date ap- proached, Reeves became in- creasingly eager to leave his he- ro's cape behind, though it did offer financial security. He put his hope in directing a science- fiction script written by an old Colleague, but this project failed to get enough funding and so never materialized. Much to his dissatisfaction, it was becoming obvious to Reeves that he had few options besides playing the Man of Steel. It's reasonable to assume that the quarrel between Lem- mon and Reeves was financially based, and Reeves's depression put a damper on Lemmon's mood. Perhaps this explains that upon Reeves's departure to his bedroom, Lemmon decided to liven up the mood with a party downstairs in which many bottles of booze were opened. At one point, Reeves came back downstairs in a huff, complain- ing about the noise, but did linger downstairs for a while, joining his friends for drinks be- fore returning upstairs. Not long after, the party heard a gunshot coming from upstairs. Bliss ran upstairs and discovered Reeves, lying dead on his bed, feet on the floor and facing upwards. The Luger that fired the fatal bullet had fallen to the floor in between his feet. Here is where the real mystery begins. The police were not called im- mediately and when they were notified arrived at the house to find the occupants so highly intoxicated that they could hardly answer questions. They would later account for their delay in calling the police citing intoxication and shock as the reason. However, in their state of intoxication, the occupants gave many strange and bizarre testimonies. Police Sergeant V.A. Peterson somehow got an account that read, "Miss Lem- mon blurted, e's probably go- ing to go shoot himself.' A noise was heard upstairs, She contin- ued, ~e's opening a drawer to get the gun.' A shot was heard. 'See there -- I told you sol" Friends of Reeves also put Lemmon in hot water. Though he wasn't present at the party, Fred Crane, who was the actor's friend since they both had a small part in 1939s Gone with the Wind, said that Bliss later told him that Lemmon was ac- tually upstairs .when the shot rang out and after the bullet was fired came rushing down- stairs in a state of panic begging the other guests to tell the police that she had been downstairs the whole time. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the case is that no evi- dence of forced entry was found in the bedroom but, along with the bullet that killed Reeves (which had hit the ceiling after exiting Reeves's head); two more bullets were discovered on the bedroom floor. This, coupled with the fact that fingerprints were not taken from the gun nor residue from Reeves' fin- gers (residue was not routinely collected in 1959), created a cloud of suspicion when the death was officially ruled sui- cide. Reeves's mother certainly refused to accept the report so easily and hired a private investigator. However, after conducting an investigation, the detective was satisfied with the suicide ruling. And so it goes. The answer to this tragic tale and why it still mystifies us may be found in the very allure of Hollywood. The land of illusioos and escapism. To a generation, George Reeves was and will always be Superman, no mat- ter how hard he tried to shake off the association. Even ff his other ventures materialized, it is unlikely he would have been able to completely put his cape away, so blurred was the line between George Reeves and the soaring hero. That is, after all, what Hollywood does best. Few would accept Reeves as anything else, especially an actor wanting to leave the icon behind. Certainly, they were not prepared to accept their hero would kill himself. If Superman is to die, it has to be something bigger than a suicide. The banal and depress- ing truth is unfit for a crusader loved by millions. For events going on in Massachusetts this SPRING, visit the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism Web site at Editorial (Continued from Page 3) and professionally as I can: I find Any deficit reduction under this utterly perplexing. Do the Obama {after he exploded the exercise yourself. Go through deficit to unprecedented record those 10 categories. Ascribe highs in the first two years of Obama a score of 1 to 10, and the Pelosi-Reid Congress) is at- do so relative to other presidents tributable in large part to the Re- you~e ranked. Where would you publican Congress that liberals give Obama a 10? How many (if excoriated for spending (uts (and any) scores above a 5 would you now want to take respcnsibility give Obama? For that matter, for the subsequent defiatreduc- how would you not score Reagan tion). The Obama debt exploded so much higher than Obama? way worse than the debt under Yes, Reagan finished with an Reagan and George W. Bush. overall ranking of nine, which is So, where would you score better than Obama, but his total Obama on Economic Manage- composite score wasn't much ment? I can't imagine anythin, g higher than Obama's. beyond a 3. Seriously, are even liberals that happy with the Obama presidency? Try to remove your ideological lens, whether left or right, and assess these ques- tions: What did Barack Obama ac- complish? What is the Obama legacy? What was the Obama vision/agenda and (more im- portant, since we're measuring effectiveness) how successful was he in implementing it? In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama's promoters could do no better than come up with silly placards about how Obama "got Osama" and "saved GM." Unlike the vast majority of two-term presidents, Obama's re-election numbers were much worse. In fact, Barack Obama was the first president ever re= elected ith fewer popular votes, fewer Electoral College votes, a lower percentage and percentage margin of victory, and winning fewer states. He never had a sus- tained period of high favorability. He couldn't elect a successor to carry on his legacy. To the contrary, Donald Trump plans to repudiate any Obama legacy. Where is the list of signa- ture domestic achievements by Obama? Obamacare maybe? It was a disaster from the roll-out, and it's going to be repealed and replaced. What were Obama's defining moments of crisis leadership? Where's his Cuban Missile Cri- sis? Did he even have a crisis to lead? How about Benghazi as a candidate? Where was Barack Obama's Camp David? What did he do for the Middle East, for Arab-Israeli relations, for relations with Rus- sia, the EU, NATO, the G-20? Where's his NAFTA? Where's his summit with the Russian leadership? Where's his missile- reduction treaty? Where's his chemical weapons ban? As for Obama's economic record, it was colossally bad. My economist colleague Mark Hendrickson calls it a "shocking historically weak economic per- formance," as many others have shown. During the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency, the average annual real GDP growth was 1.5 percent, notes Hen- drickson, "the weakest economic performance of any post-WWII president, and the fourth worst ever." And to try to still blame that failure on George W. Bush after eight years is ludicrous. Obama's GDP growth in 2016 (eight years after Bush) was a terrible 1.6 percent. Bush's economy grew better than that, and he inherited a recession and was hit with 9/11 his first year, which devastated the economy. In fact, not only was George W. Bush's economic- growth rate better than Obama's, but so was Jimmy Carter's. Yes, Carter-- typically upheld as the dubious yardstick of economic incompetence actually had In what way was Obama a master at public persuasion? What new constituencies did he generate? Where are th Obama Republicans, akin to theReagan Democrats? How were iis rela- tions with Congress? )id you observe stellar "adminstrative skills" in Obama? His mtorious lack of meetings with iis NSC and intelligence and .ecurity staffs were breathtaldn in their lack of any administrabn. As I reported here in 2012,Obama attended only 44 percelt of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his adminlstraton. For 2012, he attended a litt~ over a third. This was totally ontrary to Bush and other predeessors. Reagan and Ike both hathands- off leadership styles, buat least they attended meetings. 'WhO gave him a 10 )r that category? And if you're extolling bama's attempted fundamentatrans- formation of America's~ublic- school toilets via executi order, or his illuminating th. White House in rainbow coors to celebrate the Supreme2ourt's Obergefell decision, or h suing the Little Sisters of the ~or via the HHS Mandate, sory, but those are not among th~atego- ries for evaluation. I want to see the cae made by the guy or gal whcthinks that Barack Obama mers being listed near the top 10 pr;idents in history. Actually, must have rated him in thetop 5, because I guarantee rr score for Obama (low as it wa,'surely dropped him a few pegs In short, I'm stunned3ased on the criteria we wel given for ranking these preclents, I cannot conceive how)bama could possibly score welI don't see how Bill Clinton dia't rate higher than Obama. As noted, there wer some conservatives on C-SPPJ's list. I'm wondering if the coserva- fives didn't send in their ,arveys. The liberal hi.'storians mist have gone bonkers in merrfl: giving Obama the highest sores in every category. But forgcabout that. This shouldn't be aLiberal- conservative thing. ThUs the point. Literally half of re:top 10 or 12 were Democrats, nd I'm no Democrat. Clearly, the liberal sholars were not able to separ e their partisanship when it ame to objectively judging (bama. There's no way that arack Obama should rate the E -best president in U.S. histor.. Not a chance. Dr. Paul Kengor is p'ofessor of political science and e