Schulenberg’s Page: Murder and mystery

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June 13, 1972:  I arranged a luncheon meeting for Stuart Duncan, David Chimay and John Adamo at Tout Va Bien, the bistro -type restaurant on West 51 Street where David and John told Stu about the musical show they were trying to develop.

Stu was hot on the heels of the success of GODSPELL, which he had produced with Edgar Lansbury, the younger brother of Angela.

He had been active in theater projects in his younger years before taking on his duties at Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce of which he was the fifth generation heir and having dipped his feet in theater successfully he liked it!  And wanted more!

So there we were and as they talked, I drew.

A few days earlier I’d met with Genevieve St. George who’d introduced me to David Chimay.  I was telling her about the Duncan family and Stuart’s renewed interest in theater.  She thought it might be a good fit for everyone to meet.

After the lunch at Tout Va Bien I went home and did a bit of work before going to dinner with my friends George and Julie Tarachow-Hoover at their home in Brooklyn.

A few days later I went to Theatre Four on West 55th Street to see two plays by Tom Stoppard, After Magritte and The Real Inspector Hound.

Two good friends of mine, Tom Lacy and David Rounds, were playing theater critics in Hound which featured a play within a play, a very complicated plot!

After the show I took Tom Lacy and Chris Bernau to Joe Allen’s.  Bernau was on the soap opera Guiding Light for 11 years!

A few nights later I went to the Promenade Theater to see The Margo Lewis Group, also known as The Margo Lewis Explosion, a female rock band whose lead singer Carmen Saviola went on to have an impressive acting career in theater, television and films.

There was a lot of talk about Women’s Liberation and Consciosness Raising and this group emphatically made this point!  They were wonderfully strong!

Gael Greene had written a long article in New York Magazine about the restaurant Ramayana, and Paul Bartel suggested we go check it out.

We enjoyed curries and East Indian specialties and were glad we’d gone.

After dinner, we went to Channel VII where we sat with Lynette Logan.

Lynette was an art director at Paul’s father’s ad agency, West, Weir & Bartel, and she’d been so helpful to me when I first arrived in Manhattan to work at the agency in spite of the fact that I knew nothing at all about the business. Furthermore, there was nobody around to tell me why I was there  except for Lynette — so we hit it off immediately!

We were there to see Jimmy Kappes and Sam Browne. Kappes, a drummer, had worked in Paris; and Lynette, getting ready to move there, was enthusiastic to meet him.

We were also meeting Stuart Duncan who had brought along a beautiful young woman who was going to be in a movie he was about to produce.  Her name was Christa Helm.

Stu had decided to shoot the film in Haiti and include some voodoo elements.  As they finally started production, there were unforeseen problems which pushed the budget way beyond what had been estimated. And then, in February of 1977, Christa was murdered in West Hollywood. She’d moved west with the hope of furthering her movie career and had become very popular socially — even dating many well known actors and A-list personalities — but only had a small bit in a Starsky & Hutch television episode and a bit part in a Wonder Woman film.

Her death became sensational fodder for the tabloids and it was revealed that she’d been Stu’s mistress and that he’d given her money to invest early in Godspell whose success earned her quite a lot of money. Meeting and dating so many prominent men she had also kept a very personal diary.

It appeared that she’d also been used by the US government to infiltrate the private life of the Shah of Iran as he had flown her to Iran several times.  It’s possible that she had documented that too in her diary.

In any event her diary had disappeared. And her murder, in the same area where Sal Mineo had been murdered exactly one year to the day, has never been solved.

(Hooray for Hollywood!)

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