Saturday, April 14, 2018

Last Stop: JK :)


I watched "Last Stop: Oblivion", the 1961 Maverick episode shown on MeTV this morning. I'd seen it before, and once again, I was struck by how macabre this episode is. It's all about Bart Maverick's chilling encounter with avaricious inn keeper  "Nero Lyme" (portrayed by Buddy Ebsen) and his creepy kin, whose motto could be "The family that slays together stays together." (And after watching "Last Stop: Oblivion", you might think twice about accepting coffee from "Mrs. Olson"! ;>)

What makes this episode even scarier is that it may have been based on a true story. While I've never seen it explicitly acknowledged, "Last Stop: Oblivion" was almost certainly inspired by the story of the murderous Bender family of Labette County, Kansas.

Like Nero Lyme, John Bender and his wife ran an inn and welcomed travelers--especially wealthy travelers. And, some of their guests checked in, but didn't check out. 

The Benders' living quarters were separated from the inn and the small general store they ran by a large canvas curtain. Once a victim was targeted, the unsuspecting "guest of honor" was seated with their back to the curtain. The Benders' daughter, Kate, distracted the victim as Pa Bender and son John Jr. crept from behind the curtain to dispatch them with a deadly sledgehammer blow to the head. The victim's lifeless body was then stripped of valuables and dropped through a trapdoor into the cellar to await burial. Some of the Benders' victims were found buried in an orchard near the inn.

The Benders' killing spree lasted nearly two years. It might have gone on longer, but rumors of mysterious disappearances in the area eventually led concerned family members and friends to the inn in search of their missing loved ones.

Among the missing was a prominent physician, Dr. William York. Dr. York had visited the inn previously. He told his brother, Colonel A.M. York of Fort Scott, that he would be staying there again. However, Dr. York--who himself had been searching for a neighbor and his young daughter who were missing--never returned home.

According to one account, the Colonel stopped at the inn in May of 1873 and asked if the Benders had seen his brother. They suggested that perhaps Dr. York had run into trouble somewhere else along the way.

Colonel York thought this sounded plausible. He stayed for dinner at the inn and luckily didn't end up paying with his life. After dinner, he was sitting by himself in the front room of the inn when something shiny under one of the beds caught his eye. It was a locket--with pictures of Dr. York's wife and daughter inside. He instantly recognized the locket as one of his brother's most prized possessions. (Like when Bart found Mr. Sunday's locket in "Last Stop: Oblivion".)

Colonel York slipped out of the inn to ride away and alert the nearest authorities. As he made his way to the stable to fetch his horse, he noticed a lantern light in the orchard. He stealthily drew closer and saw Pa Bender and John Jr. apparently preparing to bury one of their victims.

Colonel York left and returned with a posse, only to find that the Benders--possibly alerted by his sudden departure--had deserted the inn and seemingly vanished into thin air. However, nearly a dozen of their victims (including Dr. York and the father and child he'd been looking for) were found buried on the property.

It was also discovered that the evil innkeeper wasn't actually named Bender and that his "family" members probably weren't even related to one another, except for Ma "Bender" and Kate, who really were mother and daughter.  

Yes, the horrific real-life saga of "The Bloody Benders" is even more hair-raising than "Last Stop: Oblivion". Pa Bender makes Nero Lyme look like Mister Rogers!

Now, let's move on to something much cheerier: color images of Jack Kelly as he appeared in "Last Stop: Oblivion". These were scanned directly from genuine color Maverick publicity slides in the Kellection. Enjoy! :)

JK and lovely co-star Suzanne Lloyd. Ms. Lloyd portrays "Laura Nelson", whom Bart meets on the stagecoach to Oblivion. Laura is in search of her missing fiancĂ©. 

The plot thickens: Another stage passenger, "Mr. Smith", is really a murderer named "Durst". Durst tries to squeeze money out of the Lymes by blackmailing them, but his plan is soured by Nero. 

 Brave Bart to the rescue! :)

The previous image was used on the cover of
this Maverick comic book:

It was also the basis for the illustration on the Maverick annual cover shown below:

Bonus photo:
This image is courtesy of Suzanne Lloyd's website, which apparently is no longer online.

Please stay tuned for more about JK and Maverick in TDS!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

JK in AZ :)


Fifty-nine years ago today (and tomorrow), Bart Maverick, er, Jack Kelly, appeared "IN PERSON!" at John F. Long's International Home Show in Phoenix, Arizona:

While in Phoenix, JK also put in an appearance at a local Jeep dealer:
 Now, here's the scoop on JK and wife Donna/May Wynn's arrival in AZ on Friday 4/10/59 (I love the headline--just wish the photo was clearer!):

The bemused local newspaper reporter, Charlotte Buchen, didn't quite know what to make of the cowboy from Queens:
"I do declare--television's Bart Maverick ain't like no cowboy I ever saw.
Bret's 6-foot, brown-eyed little brother stepped down from an American Airlines plane here yesterday morning looking very much like the man about town on the streets of New York. He's here for the John F. Long International Home Show. 
Wearing a gray suit that might well be the pride of Brooks Brothers, Maverick's white teeth sparkled as he beamed a matinee idol smile upon dozens of admirers who caught his arrival.  
'I don't live the part of Maverick,' he said, 'although I'd love to do Maverick forever.'
Like the rugged individualism of the show that has brought his face and name to millions, he defies the Buck Jones era of gun-slinging 'personality' cowboys.
'The Western ideas on the moral-telling story are over,' he said with the clipping accent of a dramatic star. 'No longer must there be right conquering might, where the mortgage property must be free and clear from the villain who goes to his demise.'
'Maverick', he continued, 'is the charming and fortunate man of the West with no ties to responsibility. He counteracts drollness and doesn't care if it's right or wrong.'
What the Maverick show has done for the actor in the brother role is to give him 'constant and prestige exposure of a national nature.'
Although 'I was successful for some 8 to 10 years prior to the Maverick show, such a force of concentration was never exerted on my career,' he added.
As he told a television newsman at the close of an on-the-spot interview at the airport, 'It might be nice if you told the listeners that my name is Jack Kelly.' So be it said.
Kelly, the man, turned away from a potential career in law to become an actor. After two years in law school, he asked his father for one year to prove himself on stage.
With reasonable success that year, he moved on to successes on stage and in films. 'Until 1951,' he admitted with a big smile, 'I was afraid of horses.'
Under contract to Universal, he was taught everything from wielding a sword to slinging a gun. When it came to learning to ride, he balked.
"But I was told that if I didn't take [riding] along with the rest, it would mean I wasn't serious about my career. So, I went out with the wranglers on the farms, and after a series of lessons, I found I wasn't petrified anymore.'
'Now I love horses, and I know that once a fear is faced it can be controlled and conquered.'
As he chatted, his wife, the former May Wynn, actress in her own right, sat sedately by as a woman who has turned her ambitions to her husband's interests.
'We have very little time for social life,' she said, 'with bedtime at 9 p.m. and getting up every morning at 5:45.'
Drawing a light for two cigarettes in the best Charles Boyer tradition, her handsome husband beamed down on her as he handed her one. 'We've been married for three years. I hope it will be 30.'
The Western star will appear at the home show from 2 to 4 p.m. today [Saturday] and tomorrow [Sunday] at West Indian School Road and 57th Street."
Where will TDS travel next in pursuit of JK? Please stay tuned and find out! :)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Look Out!

"Monday's coming!"

But, don't worry JK, because Monday means a brand new week--and some brand new posts in TDS! So, hang in there, and watch out for le diabolique Monsieur Benton*...that's what you really need to worry about!
*Le Diabolique Monsieur Benton is what the 1956 film Julie was called in France, which is where this fantastique still came from. :)