Barker died on May 11, 1973, of a heart attack while walking down a street in New York City on his way to meet his fiancée, actress Karen Kondazian.
Who is Lex Barker married to?Carmen Cerveram. 1965 Irene Labhartm. 1957–1962Lana Turnerm. 1953–1957Arlene Dahlm. 1951–1952Constanze Thurlowm. 1942–1950 Lex Barker/Spouse
It was love at first sight. She also travelled to Canada with him at the end of April 1973 before both went to New York City. During the time with Lex Barker, the young actress was working in American television series.
That was also the beginning of her life-long friendship with Tennessee Williams. Master Class Los Angeles, 2007 advanced to a great theatre success — with Karen Kondazian masterfully portraying opera star Maria Callas during her student time at Juilliard School — and earned outstanding reviews Ed Harris and Faye Dunaway, by the way, were among the enthusicastic guests of the play.
The following interview was conducted in 2009 and published here for the first time: Karen, Lex Barker would have been ninety years old in 2009. When you look back, what memories do you have of Lex? I remember Lex, first of all, as the most romantic man I have ever known.
He was such a gentlemen, old-fashioned in the best sense, great fun to be with. We used to lie in bed at night, sing show tunes and laugh ourselves to sleep.
He was much deeper than most people knew. He was a Renaissance man… he could do anything. He spoke several languages, gardened, cooked, rode horses, was a superb tennis player, loved to play cards and golf. I do think though, that part of him was a sad, wounded little boy… terribly afraid of getting older and losing his looks.
How all the women loved him! Lex was like the daddy every girl dreams of having. He taught me so many things. You were together with Lex in his last days. How do you remember the three days between his 54th birthday and the 11 May 1973, the day he died? We flew to New York from Montreal a few days before his birthday. We stayed at a lovely Park Avenue apartment with some friends of his. I remember that, on his birthday, he took me to see Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris 1972a film he loved very much.
With his birthday present I gave him a card, on which I had written a poem for him. He was trying to beat them off, but they kept grabbing him from behind, grabbing his chest. Now I realize that he was probably having a small heart attack in his sleep.
We were going to take the train to Connecticut afterwards to visit friends.
We called the hospitals and then walked to nearby police stations. Once we identified him, he was taken to the Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Avenue. A hypothetical question: In what type of roles would we have seen Lex in the 1970s? Because Lex was so handsome, I think he got typecast and trapped in those hunky kind of roles like Tarzan. I think he had so much more inside of him though. He was beginning to show his real talent, for example, in La Dolce Vita. Had he lived, I am sure he could have played the kind of roles that Clint Eastwood has played… and also Sean Connery.
At eight years old I wanted to be a spy when I grew up. And because I found out each time I was on the show, that I could miss school, get a free lunch of my favorites grilled cheese sandwiches and orange sherbetand I could make my mommy laugh by being on the show; I decided that acting was the life for me.
One of your acting teachers was Jeff Corey, a wonderful character What happened to the actor Lex Barker? from Hollywood. He also starred with Lex in a German Karl May movie What happened to the actor Lex Barker? of the Aztecs 1965. What in particular did you learn from Jeff? Jeff Corey and Lee Strasberg were my two most influential acting teachers. He also helped me get my first acting agent in Hollywood which of course, helped start my career.
Theater is one of your great loves, I know. And you are very well-known for performing the plays of Tennessee Williams. Williams was fascinated with your acting and you. Did he ever tell you the reasons he liked you so much in his plays? He said that I reminded him of one of his best friends, the great Italian actress Anna Magnani. He saw me in his Rose Tattoo and gave me the rights to produce all of his plays while he was alive.
He told me once that to play his women, one has to have the same struggle that he himself has… the fight between the body and the soul. He said he saw that struggle in me. The first glance at your list of movie and television performances reveals The Hound Of The Baskervilles with Stewart Granger as your first television film. What memories do you have of Granger and the production? It was my first television role. Stewart Granger, like Lex, was very charming.
He was careful to watch over me and told me that I looked like his ex-wife, Jean Simmons. You also appeared in Yes Giorgio with Luciano Pavarotti. How did you like working with Pavarotti? He was so kind and generous to everyone — especially the women. We filmed in the gorgeous Napa Valley of California. He and I shared the same hair and make-up trailer, so every morning when we were getting our make-up done, he would ask me what song I wanted to hear.
He would use that song to warm up his voice that day. I had a private concert by that incredible voice every morning! What a way to start the day, yes? One of your great theatre successes was Master Class, where you played Maria Callas.
As an actress, how did you prepare for such a part, playing such a gigantic character from What happened to the actor Lex Barker? world of opera? I read every book on Callas, the greatest actress in all of opera. I was also very fortunate to be put in touch with one of the original Master Class students that she had taught at Juilliard music school.
This woman told me things about Callas that no book knew… how she was going blind from macular degeneration, she was having terrible problems with her teeth. And how Callas suffered terribly with the loss of Onassis. I found out from this student a lot of secrets… what really helped my performance was understanding that a ruined, broken child lived inside this diva. You also love Westerns, though. In a television production you played Kate Elder Holliday.
Your new book will be a novel about a woman in the old West who lived her life as a man. Can you tell us something about that story? She was a famous stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo, Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst.
She killed a famous bandit who tried to rob her stagecoach one too many times. She also had the courage to live with a black What happened to the actor Lex Barker?
during the Civil War period. My ultimate dream would be to have Clint Eastwood direct it and Cate Blanchett to star in it. I was just thinking that perhaps if Lex What happened to the actor Lex Barker? still living that who knows… he might have become a director as well. You have played many Italian characters. What do you think about Lex in La Dolce Vita?
Yes, like every actor, I was typecast. I look so Italian that the majority of roles that I play are Italian women. As for Lex in La Dolce Vita, I remember seeing him as a young girl, for the first time in that movie.
He was What happened to the actor Lex Barker? and wonderful… and I remember thinking that I wanted to see more of him… he was so interesting to me.
Years later when I knew him, he told me that Fellini had filmed about 10 hours more with a lot of his work included that got cut from the film, as the movie was already so long. What are some of your upcoming acting projects? There is a wonderful film project starring Ed Harris to be shot in Boston sometime in the near future, as soon as the final financing comes together. I will be playing what else… an Italian mafia mama.
We hope to be performing the premiere production of it off-Broadway later next What happened to the actor Lex Barker?. We wish you much success for those projects. Thank you for the conversation. Thank you, Judith, for your sweet words about Lex ~~ On his 100th, I took Lex and my heart, to a lovely restaurant and toasted him with his favorite drink….
I was an aspiring screenwriter and for some reason had read about Lex and remembered his untimely death in nyc and that it had happened close to my neighborhood.
He seemed like a complicated fellow, a classic lonely and ignored child, whose good looks and natural panache allowed him to succeed in the soulless world of Hollywood. A generation later a little psychological therapy would have worked wonders.