MORBID CURIOSITY: Celebrity Tombstones Across America | home
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Carroll O'Connor and his son Hugh
August 2, 1924 - June 21, 2001
Boy the way Glen Miller played,
songs that made the hit parade,
guys like us we had it made,
those were the days,
and you know where you were then,
girls were girls and men were men,
mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,
didn't need no welfare states everybody pulled his weight,
gee our old Lasalle ran great,
those were the days!"
- theme song from "All in the Family"
Carroll O'Connor was born in Bronx, New York one of three sons raised by a successful New York attorney and his wife. He grew up in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York, a far cry from the section of Flushing where Archie lived. In 1942, O'Connor graduated from high school and joined the Merchant Marines to work on the ships in the Atlantic. This job was temporary because his real love was the theater.
Although his siblings became physicians, he chose to study literature and acting. While finishing his undergraduate studies at the National University of Ireland he met his wife. They were married in Dublin in 1951 and he went on to appear on stage throughout Europe before breaking into the movies.
In the early part of 1970, Norman Lear approached O'Connor with the script for the pilot of "All in the Family," a show adapted from the British show "'Til Death Do Us Part." At first O'Connor disliked the pilot and Lear re-wrote it so that he would agree to play "Archie." After some difficulty getting it on the air, due to it's subject matter, it finally made it's debut on CBS, on January 12, 1971.
"All in the Family" was a ground breaking series for it's time. It dealt with controversial topics that had never been addressed on American television. In fact it was first to incorporate a flushing toilet, one of the many taboos of that era.
The series pitted the character of Archie against his "dingbat" but wise wife Edith (played by Jean Stapleton), their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), who was torn between her father's and her husband's views. And of course no show would be complete without Archie and son-in-law Mike aka "Meathead" (Rob Reiner) who locked horns over a wide range of topics.
When O'Connor was performing in the role of Archie he tapped into the mindset of middle class, blue collar America during the Vietnam-war era. Although he recognized that his character was both loved and hated, he said he tried to play him as truthfully as he knew how. According to producer Norman Lear, "Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker was a genius at work, God's gift to the world, he is etched permanently in our memories."
Although "All in the Family" drew sharp criticism when it first came out, it developed a huge audience ranking No. 1 for five years and spinning off three successful shows: "Archie Bunker's Place," "Maude," and "The Jeffersons."
"All in the Family" broadcasted for the last time in 1979 and the show's furniture, Archie and Edith's chairs, have been donated to the Smithsonian for the Museum of Television and Radio.
O'Connor had been battling poor health in the late 90's, losing a toe to complications from diabetes and undergoing gall bladder surgery.
Then in 1998, O'Connor went under the knife again to clear a blockage in a heart artery to reduce his risk for a stroke.
On June 21st Carroll had begun to experience chest pains. Although he was rushed to Brotman Hospital in Los Angeles, doctors were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 3 pm (PDT).
A Roman Catholic funeral mass was held on the following Tuesday, (June 26th) for O'Connor. Cardinal Roger Mahony served the mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. Close friends Larry Hagman and Martin Sheen eulogized him and solemnly read fro the Bible. After Hagman, who was visibly choking back tears, finished his reading, Sheen followed with a reading from the First Corinthians, Chapter 13: (As Archie would have said "Chapter 13, dot, dot")
Six of O'Connor's nephews were pallbearers and carried their uncle from the church. Although the mass was open to the public, the burial was to be private.
He is buried along with his son, Hugh in Westwood Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.
He is located near the chapel flanked by the graves of Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon.
For almost over a year the O'Connor grave remained unmarked. According to my cemetery source, Carroll O'Connor was cremated and remained home with his widow for the first six months after his death. I was then told he would eventually be marked as you can see.
Carroll O'Connor Trivia
Auditioned for the role of "The Skipper" on "Gilligan's Island."
Passed away on the same day that blues legend, John Lee Hooker did. Carroll O'Connor and John Lee Hooker's stars are right next to each other on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
April 7, 1962 - March 28, 1995
Born in Rome, Italy, Hugh was adopted by actor Carroll O'Connor and his wife Nancy. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, but successfully beat it with the help of chemotherapy. It is suspected that this was around the time that Hugh began using drugs. His father, well aware of Hugh's experimentation with drugs, kept him busy with "little jobs," and tried to focus the youth into a positive direction. Hugh first worked as a courier on the set of his father's show, "Archie Bunker's Place." And later he was cast in another of his father's shows, "In the Heat of the Night" where he played Lt. Lonnie Jamison.
Hugh's character was only a small part to start, just something above an extra. He had to prove to himself and everyone else that just because he had a celebrity father didn't mean he would walk in the front door as a star.
But soon Hugh did become one of the show's stars and worked on the show until it was canceled in 1995.
All seemed good for Hugh, he had a successful show, a wife and a new baby, Sean Carroll O'Connor, but drugs still dominated his life and became worse with time. On his 3rd wedding anniversary to his wife, Angela, Hugh committed suicide in their Pacific Palisades home. Just moments before shooting himself in the head he called his father and told him that he could not beat the drugs and could no longer cope with life.
His suicide prompted Carroll O'Connor to go after Songwriter Harry Perzigian for selling and supplying his son with drugs. He made statements that Perzigian was "a partner in murder." Perzigian tried to sue O'Connor for his statements but lost. During the trial he did admit to supplying drugs to Hugh who had waged a long battle against drugs and alcohol. He did however deny that he was a drug dealer and that he was just a friend who occasionally shared drugs with Hugh. He also denied that he supplied any drugs to Hugh on the night that he took his life. With the verdict in his favor the elder O'Connor was instrumental in the passage of the Drug Dealers Civil Liability Act in California. The Act states that citizens can sue drug dealers whom they feel are responsible for the drug-related deaths of family members.