Steve Goldstein is the man responsible for the photographs in this story. He's been a great contributor to Findadeath.com. For that shot of the inside of the apartment, we owe him big time. Nerves of steel, Steve. Thanks.
Dorothy was it. She was beautiful, she could sing, and she could act. Failed relationships, a disabled daughter and racism had all taken a toll on her. By 1965, she had money problems, and an intimate relationship with pills and alcohol.
On September 8, 1965, her manager Earl Mills arrived at her apartment to help her pack for a comeback engagement in New York City. When she failed to answer the door, he used his key, but the chain was on the door. He shut the door, and left for a couple of hours.
Upon his return, the door was still chained. He went to his car and got the tire iron out, and used it to break the chain. He went inside and searched the apartment, calling out for her. He got to the bathroom and found Dorothy lying on the floor. She was wearing a blue scarf on her head, a bit of makeup, and nothing else. He touched her face, and knew she was dead. He called her physician and an ambulance. She was 42 years old.
Sheriff's deputies carried Dorothy's body from the apartment on a stretcher, along with what the scene looks like today.
Strangely, a few months before she died, Dorothy gave a note to her manager in an envelope marked, "To Whomsoever Discovers Me After Death - Important." The hand-written note on the inside read, "In case of my death - to whomever discovers it - Don't remove anything I have on - scarf, gown or underwear - Cremate me right away - If I have anything, money, furniture, give to my mother Ruby Dandridge - She will know what do to.
- Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy's body was taken to the coroner's office for an autopsy, and later she was embalmed at the Angelus Funeral Home at 3875 Crenshaw, and dressed in a cream-colored lace gown with a matching scarf. She was put into a polished walnut casket, which remained closed.
Her final journey was to Forest Lawn, Glendale, for cremation and interment. There was a service in the Little Church of the Flowers, attended by Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., James Mason, and Sidney Poitier. Pallbearers were Byron Morrow, Joel Fluellen, Harold Jovien, J. Kennedy Lightfoot, Leo Branton, Ben Irwin, Terry Hunt, Sleazy Peter Lawford and Slappy White. Quite a list. I wonder how it was organized.
Icky Peter Lawford (he and Dorothy were close friends) was supposed to speak, but was too overcome by emotion. The service lasted only fifteen minutes. Afterward, she was cremated and stuck in a wall in the Freedom Mausoleum.
Initial reports of Dorothy's death stated that there was no evidence of suicide, accident or foul play. The official cause of death was "Accident, suicide, undetermined."
On September 10th, UPI reported that the autopsy revealed that she had died because of a blood clot caused by a fractured toe. Yes. "Dorothy Dandridge died because bone marrow particles had entered her blood stream and reached her brain and lungs." In November, the L.A. County Medical Examiner announced, "Dorothy Dandridge died as a result of an overdose of drugs used to treat psychiatric depression." Acute ingestion of Tofranil, the anti-depressant, killed her.
Dorothy's estate consisted of $4,000 worth of furniture and $2.14 in her bank account. That is not an error. Two dollars and fourteen cents. How terribly, terribly sad. On the other hand, she used up all her money. Good for her.
Trivia: She was the first black woman ever to be nominated for best actress, for her role in Carmen Jones. The ironic bit is that her singing voice was dubbed in the flick.
If you were beautiful, and could act and sing, it was probably a good idea not to become friends with Peter Lawford.