Robert Cletus “Bobby” Driscoll (March 3, 1937 – March 30, 1968)
45 years ago today (March 30th 2013) the body of Bobby Driscoll was found by two young children playing in a tenement building in the East Village. The dead body of Bobby Driscoll was laying on a cot with two empty bottles of beer and a number of religious pamphlets scattered nearby. He had died less than 2 miles from the Lower East Side streets used as locations in his film The Window.
The medical examination determined that he had died from heart failure caused by an advanced hardening of the arteries because of his longtime drug abuse. His body was found with with two empty bottles of beer and a number of religious pamphlets scattered nearby. Police reports state there was no drug paraphernalia nearby and no trace of drugs in his system.
Since Bobby was carrying no identification he was classified as a John Doe. Post mortem finger prints were taken and after a 2 week claim period had passed, he was buried in the Potter’s Field section of New York City’s Hart Island cemetery (a Pauper’s Grave). Bobby Driscoll was buried in a pine box in a trench stacked 3 coffins high and 2 coffins across. Prisoners from nearby Rikers Island have the job of attending to these “city burials”.
Nineteen months later in late 1969, Bobby’s father was gravely ill in California and asking to see his long lost son. His mother asked Merv Griffin and Disney execs to help locate Bobby. Through a fingerprint match, the family learned of his fate. The news didn’t hit the press for another 2 years in 1971, when Driscoll’s mother publicly revealed the tragic story just as the Disney Studios was re-releasing Song of the South. Bobby Driscoll’s mother had her son’s name placed on a grave with his father.
Bobby Driscoll was one of the biggest child stars of his time. The first person to sign a contract with Walt Disney, he was also given a Juvenile Academy Award in 1950 for his roles in So Dear to My Heart & The Window, presented as the outstanding juvenile actor of 1949.
Bobby Driscoll’s last major success, was Walt Disney's Peter Pan, released in 1953. He provided the voice & was used as the reference model for the close-ups, Pan bares a striking resemblance to Bobby. In March 1953, Driscoll’s contract with Disney (which would have kept him at Disney into 1956) was canceled, just weeks after Peter Pan was released theatrically. A severe case of acne accompanying the onset of puberty and explaining why it was necessary for Driscoll to use heavy makeup for his performances on dozens of TV shows, was officially provided as the final reason for the termination of his connection with the Disney Studios.
Driscoll encountered increasing indifference from the other Hollywood studios. Still perceived as “Disney’s kid actor" he was unable to get movie roles as a serious character actor.
After he left the Disney studios, Driscoll’s parents withdrew him from the Hollywood Professional School which served child movie actors, and sent him to the public Westwood University High School instead. There his grades dropped substantially, he was the target of ridicule for his previous film career, and he began to experiment with drugs.
He said later, “The other kids didn’t accept me. They treated me as one apart. I tried desperately to be one of the gang. When they rejected me, I fought back, became belligerent and cocky — and was afraid all the time." At his request, Driscoll’s parents returned him the next year to Hollywood Professional School, where in May 1955 he graduated.
However, his drug use increased. In an interview years later, he stated, “I was 17 when I first experimented with the stuff. In no time I was using whatever was available, … mostly heroin, because I had the money to pay for it." In 1956, he was arrested for the first time for possession of marijuana, but the charge was dismissed. On July 24, 1956, Hedda Hopper wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “This could cost this fine lad and good actor his career."
In 1965, a year after his parole expired, he relocated to New York, hoping to revive his career on the Broadway stage, but was unsuccessful. He became part of Andy Warhol’s Greenwich Village art community known as The Factory, where he began focusing on his artistic talents. He had previously been encouraged to do so by famed artist and poet Wallace Berman, whom he had befriended after joining Berman’s art circle (now also known as Semina Culture) in Los Angeles in 1956.
Some of his works were considered outstanding, and a few of his surviving collages and cardboard mailers were temporarily exhibited in Los Angeles at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
In 1965, early in his tenure at The Factory, Driscoll gave his last known film performance, in experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer’s underground movie Dirt.
He left The Factory in late 1967 or early 1968 and, penniless, disappeared into Manhattan’s underground.
(sources: (x) (x) (x) (and me)
"I have found that memories are not very useful. I was carried on a silver platter … and then dumped into the garbage." - Bobby Driscoll.
“But where do you live mostly now?”
With the lost boys.”
Who are they?”
They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain." - J.M Barrie, Peter Pan.