The Death of Joe Friday Jack Webb

Jack Webb
April 2, 1920 – December 22, 1982
“Just the Facts, Ma’am.”

I chose the photograph above for two reasons, thefirst because it’s from my favorite film, Sunset Boulevard, and second, because Ithought it really odd to find Jack Webb with a cheesy grin on hisface.  This story is for my buddy Richard Waybright, without whom this would notbe possible  

According to Jack’s widow, Opal, “Jack lovedjazz, strong drink and beautiful women.”  One source mentions thatJack used to hold court at the HMSBounty every Monday night during the early 70’s.

  I love the Bounty – agreat relic from old Hollywood – that hasn’t been messed with.  About ayear ago there was a wake held in the Bounty for the AmbassadorHotel, which stood across the street. 

DianeKeaton was prattling on about the building talking to her or something likethat.  That part was pretty bizarre, but overall an interesting evening.

According to John Javna and his book Cult TV,Jack Webb was an asthmatic, only child, and grew up wanting to be ancartoonist.  He made up a portfolio and presented it to Disney, but anoffer never came.  He later became friends with Walt Disney and shot Dragnet on the Disney lot.

Joe Friday (to a neo-nazi): “You keepharping about minorities.  Well mister, you’re a psycho, and they’reminorities, too.”

He was married 4 times, and paid nearly amillion dollars in alimony.  His first wife was singer Julie London, whoJack hired with her husband, Bobby Troup, to work on his 1971 show, Emergency.  Bizarrely, Jack had a daughter with JulieLondon named Stacy,and she was killed in 1996 in a collision with a patrol car.

He lived in unit 2604 of this tallbuilding.  

His apartment was actually two condominiums combined.  He hada spiral staircase installed and the massive concrete ceiling drilled through toaccommodate it.  I believe this is the apartment that Cher now owns. When she bought it, it was mentioned that it was the only two level unit in thebuilding.

Other residents include Matthew Perry, Lindsay Lohan andBrendan Fraser.  Sidney Poitier used to live there, but when ShariBelefonte was on my tour, she told me Sidney had moved.  It is fascinating see the paparazzi across the street, waiting for Lohan to show up at the frontentrance.

By late 1982, Jack’s health began to deteriorate. He smokedreal lung-buster cigs like Chesterfields and L&M, he drank a lot and ateloads of meat.  His friends suggested getting help, but he ignored them.

Around 3 a.m. on December 23rd, Jack awoke complaining of stomachpains.  He went to the kitchen to make toast and have milk (yuck) when hecollapsed.  His wife called the paramedics, who worked on Jack, to noavail.  He was pronounced dead at 3:23 a.m. of a heart attack.  He was 62 years old.

The flags in the city of Los Angeles were flownat half staff, and Jack was buried at Forest Lawn Glendale on the 28th.  He wasthe only civilian to ever be buried with full police honors.  He is buried in atraditional suit, and his signature red socks.  

Badge  714 was retired that day.

Trivia:  I clipped these from an articlethat ran in the LA Times about 13 years ago. I didn’t save the author, sowhomever you are, please forgive me.

The badge number was 714.  There areprobably several in existence, but thisparticular one was in the Hollywood History Museum. 

 Jack had a thingfor the number 7.  His production company was even called Mark VII, andaccording to one source, these filthy hands were actually his.  I choose not to believe this.

The makers of Dragnet were not allowed to keepovernight the LAPD badge shown on the show or the plastic decals with the LAPDinsignia used on studio cars.  Instead, the items were brought over fromthe LAPD for each day’s shoot.

My friend Jayne Osborne went to the Police Academy recently, and found Jack’s guns adorningthe wall.

Jack also created Adam 12, starringMartin Milner and Kent McCord.  For Jack’s other credits, check here. This is Jack being funny on the TonightShow.

Thank you to Daniel Moyer and Eugene Alvarez fortheir research, from the book, “Just the Facts, Ma’am – the authorizedbiography of Jack Webb.”

More Dragnet information availablehere.

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