Actress attempts suicide at home of movie star, August 1958
She was the fifth Mrs. Mickey Rooney, between Elaine Mahnken (No. 4, 5 1/2 years) and Margaret "Margie" Lane (No. 6, 104 days). She's the one who was shot to death by her crazy boyfriend. But I'm getting ahead of the story.
Her name was Barbara and at 17, she was Miss Muscle Beach, Miss Surfestival and Miss Bay Beach for 1954. The Times noted her "winning measurements, which pleased the judges" as 5-3, 120 pounds, 36-21-35.
By 1958, she was sharing a place at 1436 Laurel Ave., with Pat Landers, a nightclub singer, and as Carolyn Mitchell had appeared in two Roger Corman pictures, "Dragstrip Riot," featuring Fay Wray, and "The Cry Baby Killer," starring Jack Nicholson.
Maybe what happened on that night in August 1958 makes sense if you're a 21-year-old beauty queen involved with a 38-year-old movie star and have a couple of girlfriends help you try to land him.
Landers brought along another girlfriend, Kiff Chance, who is identified as an actress in some stories and as an agent in others. Chance's main claim to fame appears to be getting pushed into a pool by Frank Torre of the Braves, who was at a rowdy Bel-Air party with Lew Burdette, Gene Conley and Red Schoendienst while Milwaukee was in town to play the Dodgers.
Barbara was unconscious when Landers and Chance arrived, so they decided to wake her up by undressing her and putting her in the swimming pool. Just for good measure, Landers took off her clothes so she could get into the pool and dunk Barbara in the water.
When that didn't work, Landers called her doctor, who told her to contact the police. The Fire Department also responded and took Barbara to North Hollywood Hospital, which released her the next day. According to Rooney's agent, Red Doff, Rooney got home, found notes all over the house, visited the hospital to check on Barbara and went home after he found out she was fine.
"It's all a publicity stunt cooked up by these three girls," Doff told The Times. "Sure Mickey knows Barbara and has taken her out a few times. But Mickey likes all girls. After all, he's not even divorced yet and here someone is trying to get him married already.
"I'm Mickey's closest friend and you can quote me as saying that he enjoyed Miss Thomason's company just as he did the many other girls he has been out with since separating from his wife. But that's as far as it went!"
While Rooney was busy in Tahoe, supposedly perfecting his golf game, boxer Art Aragon joined Barbara's friends in Los Angeles in insisting that she and Rooney were involved.
"If Mickey says he wasn't serious about Barbara, he's not telling the truth," Aragon said. "Pat [Landers], Mickey, Barbara and myself were out together just before the [Carmen] Basilio scrap and he couldn't keep his eyes off her."
Less than six years later, on Jan. 24, 1966, Rooney sued for divorce, charging Barbara with mental cruelty over her involvement with Milos Milosevic, 24, an explosive, small-time actor from Yugoslavia who had a bit part in "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming." Rooney charged that Barbara "was allowing, permitting, encouraging or harboring" Milosevic.On Jan. 30, 1966, Barbara visited Rooney at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, where he was recovering from an intestinal infection he caught while filming in the Philippines, presumably "Ambush Bay." She used a hidden microphone to record their conversation with the help of private detective Herm Schlieske.
Milosevic was "very pleasant but nuts," according to an actor who worked with him on "The Russians Are Coming." Milosevic "would drive sports cars and aim for people. They would have to jump out of his way. This was always a big laugh to him," the actor said. In filing for divorce, Milosevic's ex-wife, Cynthia Bouron, said Inglewood police had arrested him on charges of assaulting her.
She and Schlieske returned to the Rooney home at 13030 Evanston St., where they were joined by Milosevic, and two of her friends, Wilma Catania, a visitor from New York who was staying in the guest house, and Susie Sydney. Also in the house at the time were three of the Rooneys' four children.
The people dispersed about 7:30 p.m. and about 8 p.m., Milosevic and Barbara went into the master bedroom and locked the door, The Times said.
With the children in bed, Catania called out to Barbara, asking if she and Sydney could borrow the car to attend a party in Hollywood. There was no answer, so the women left. Catania said she returned about 2:30 a.m. and went to bed in the guest house.
Attorney Harold A. Abeles escorts three of Barbara and Mickey Rooney's children from their home at 13030 Evanston St. after the murder-suicide.
Early the next afternoon, with no sign of Barbara or Milosevic, Catania and the maid unlocked the bedroom door and found the couple on the bathroom floor. He had shot her once in the jaw and then killed himself, using a nickel-plated .38 semiautomatic that Rooney bought in 1964.
Milosevic's body was returned to Yugoslavia at his mother's request. Barbara was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale after a memorial at Church of the Recessional. During Barbara's service, Rooney was "grimly composed, but her mother ... and sister sobbed throughout the ceremony," The Times said. Barbara Ann Thomason, Miss Muscle Beach 1954, was 29 years old.
Footnotes: In 1970, Milosevic's ex-wife, Cynthia Bouron, alias Samantha Lou Bouron, brought a paternity suit against Cary Grant, saying that he was the father of her daughter Stephanie Andrea. Grant rejected all of her claims, saying that he had nothing to do with her and the case was dismissed when she refused to take a blood test. On Oct. 30, 1973, Bouron's body was found in the trunk of a car that was parked for several days at the Market Basket, 11315 Ventura Blvd. She was fully dressed, and had been tied up and beaten to death. The killing apparently remains unsolved.
In 1978, Rooney married Jan Chamberlin. This year, they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary.