When Fiction becomes fact: Actor Paul Lynde murdered his lover.
John William Tuohy
Many years ago I met one of the cast members from the television show “Celebrity Squares” and I was shocked, well, saddened really, over his take of Paul Lynde. I had always liked Paul Lynde’s performances, he was a notch above the rest in my opinion. By his co-workers summary, based on examples, was that off camera, Lynde was not only dark, but he was also a drunk, a mean drunk. As a parting nail in the coffin, the actor told me that “You know, he murdered a teenager, threw him off a porch, you should look into it”
So, all these years later, I did. And although no one has ever contradicted his Lynde reputation for being a sort of nasty man and a mean drunk, the “threw a kid off a porch” story, is pure rubbish.
Here’s what actually happened.
On the night of July 18, 1965, Lynde and his lover James “Bing” Davidson traveled from Beverly Hills to San Francisco and checked into an eighth-floor suite at the ritzy Sir Francis Drake Hotel.
Lynde was 39-years old at the time and Davidson was just 24. Davidson, who attended the University of Nebraska, was born in Hastings, Nebraska and lived most of his short life in Grand Island, Neb. In 1960, he made the move west to Hollywood and worked mostly as an uncredited bit actor, under the name Bing Davidson, in television and movies, including "Take Her, She's Mine" and "Prescription Murder."
In 1963, with enough credits under his belt, he was allowed to join the Screen Actors Guild, but under the stage name James Davidson. (There was also another up and coming actor named James Davidson, who appeared in various TV show like "Slattery's People," "Wagon Train," and "Combat."
At about 6:00 PM, Lynde and Davidson left their suite and went out bar hopping. The pair returned to the hotel at about 2:30 that morning. Lynde went to his suite and Davidson stayed in the lobby. At about 2:45 a hotel security officer escorted Davidson to his room because he was “boisterous” meaning loud, combative and drunk. About fifteen minutes after being led back to the suite, Davidson walked to a window, opened it and said “Watch what I can do, let me show you a trick”
Davidson stupidly grabbed the ledge beneath his feet and slide down to cling from it, holding on with his fingertips. Within seconds he started to lose his grip and screamed “I’m slipping. Help me.”
Lynde threw himself toward the window and grabbed Davidson's wrist, but couldn’t hold on and Davison made things worse by trying to get back up by lifting his leg and shifting all of 180 pounds to one side causing Lynde to lose his grip. Davidson plunged 80 feet, fell past the awning over the hotel's main entrance and landed on Powell Street, dead.
Police officer Richard Fenlason and Charles Warren saw a crowd of between ten and 12 people stopping to watch Davison struggle to safety. Three years before, on August 9, 1960, officer Fenlason was on the scene when Teddy Barron, a singer with the group The Starlighters, had a run in with the San Francisco police. The group had made an appearance at Ann's 440 Club. After the show, Barron went to the apartment of his former girlfriend, Barbara Joyce Bledsoe, 24, a waitress.
Bledsoe said that Barron knocked on the glass door of her apartment, she opened the door, saw who it was and slammed the door and it shattered, cutting Barron on the hands and face, then, she said, Barron stepped into the apartment through the door, severely cutting his leg. Bledsoe said she ran out the back door and hid in a neighbor's back yard while Barron ransacked her home but took only $30 from her purse.
Barron, first on left
Fenlason and another cop came to the scene and were interviewing Bledsoe when Barron sped by in his car, his lights out. The cops leaped into their car and followed by they lost him. Another squad car picked him up a few blocks away, driving the wrong way down a one-way street. The cops cut him off and Barron leaped out of his car, knife in hand, and attacked to the two officers. It took four policemen to finally subdue him.
The two cops pulled their patrol car over outside the hotel at Powell and Sutter Streets, saw Davidson and radioed for the fire department and dashed into the hotel and made it up to the suite after Davidson had fallen and found Paul Lynde, dazed, sitting on the edge of a bed. All he said was "He weighs about 180 pounds. It was too much for me. I told him to grab my neck, but he slipped away”
The coroner conducted an investigation and based on the testimony of hotel staff, several citizens and the two policemen, Deputy coroner Mark Aleeson classified the death as an accident and determined that Davidson had been drinking heavily.