John David Carson has died at the age of 57. Actually, he died on October 27, but I didn’t hear about it until today. He was the star of Pretty Maids All in a Row and The Savage is Loose (playing George C. Scott’s son), and later had a prolific career as a character actor and appeared in many films and TV shows including Charlie’s Angels, The Fall Guy, Falcon Crest, Taxi and Hawaii Five-O.
Carson’s last role was in 1990, in Pretty Woman. He played a background character in the office where Richard Gere worked and only had a few lines. Apparently he had a stretch of rough time during the 90s, and lost a lot of his money gambling. I was told by his ex-girlfriend that he had a pretty serious drinking problem and was homeless for some time; I’m not sure how long this lasted because she said she hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years.
I was informed of his death by his wife, Diane, who replied to a few videos of Carson I posted on Youtube with the sad news. I had tried to contact him last year, wanting to write an article about him, but couldn’t get through to him. His phone number that was listed led me to his ex-girlfriend, which means that it must have been at least 10 years out of date.
Carson’s story is sad. He really started out his Hollywood career as a very naive and confused young man, and was apparently pushed around and intimidated by a number of directors and producers who wanted to sleep with him. By his own admission he was also “on acid a lot of the time” and it didn’t help him manage his career wisely. Because of his overtly sexual debut role in Pretty Maids, and his association with Rock Hudson, it seems that he came in the crosshairs of a lot of sleazy people. Apparently George C. Scott had tried to take him under his wing and help his career along, but he never became the leading man that he had hoped to be. This interview of him (which is actually transcribed from a print interview in a magazine - the guy who is speaking the lines is NOT actually John David Carson) is pretty heartbreaking to listen to if you consider the ultimate trajectory of his career - he shows such excitement and enthusiasm at being a young actor just starting out in Hollywood, and has such a youthful ambition.
I know he’s a pretty damn obscure actor and I would be surprised if more than a few people here know who he is - but I was really saddened to hear of this news.