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Cass Elliot Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 19 September 1941Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Date of Death 29 July 1974London, England, UK  (heart attack)
Birth NameEllen Naomi Cohen
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, performed in a summer stock production of "The Boyfriend" at the Owings Mills Playhouse, where she played the French nurse who sings "It's Nicer, Much Nicer in Nice." After this experience, even though her family anticipated her seeking a college education in pursuit of a career, Cass forged ahead in the performing arts. She made a splash in New York and began an acting career, competing with Barbra Streisand for the Miss Marmelstein part in "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" in 1962.

She toured in a production of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man." Elliot also produced a play at Cafe La Mama in New York. However, by early 1963 she had met up with Tim Rose and John Brown and formed a folk trio initially dubbed The Triumvirate, but later known as The Big 3 when Brown was replaced by James Hendricks. The Big 3 were a progressive and innovative folk trio who recorded two albums and made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), Hootenanny (1963) and The Danny Kaye Show (1963). In 1964 the group had begun to fall apart and it metamorphosized into a foursome called "Cass Elliot and The Big Three" which included Canadians Denny Doherty and Zal Yanovsky (Rose had left at this point). Soon this foursome became The Mugwumps who operated out of The Shadows nightclub in Washington. They released a single for Warner Brothers and stayed together through the end of 1964, until they, too, began to disintegrate. Cass began to work as a solo single in Washington, D.C.

At this point Doherty had joined John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and the three were performing as The New Journeymen. Soon they left for the Virgin Islands, where Cass subsequently joined them, and the four began to sing together in mid-1965--thus, the superstar group The Mamas and The Papas was born. From 1965 to 1968 the Mamas and Papas recorded a series of top-ten hits including "Monday, Monday," "California Dreamin'," "I Saw Her Again," and "Dedicated to the One I Love."

The group's last hit was a launching number for Cass Elliot. "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" became her theme song and, beginning in 1968, she embarked on her own short-lived but solid solo career. Her distinct voice had always emerged from the groups in which she sang. In 1969 she scored big with "It's Getting Better" and 1970 yielded the hits "Make Your Own Kind of Music" and "New World Coming." In 1970, Elliot also appeared in the film Pufnstuf (1970) and recorded an album with rock singer Dave Mason. Recently, the issue of the soundtrack of Monte Walsh (1970) turned up four different versions of her theme song, "The Good Times Are Coming", composed by John Barry and Hal David.

Elliot had two prime-time television specials of her own in 1969 and 1973, but most people remember her scores of television appearances throughout the early 1970s with Mike Douglas, Julie Andrews, Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, Tom Jones, Carol Burnett and others. She guest-hosted "The Tonight Show", had successful stints in Las Vegas and continued to record for RCA during these years, too. Cass had one daughter, Owen Vanessa, in April 1967 and she was married twice, first (1963-68) to fellow Big Three and Mugwumps member Jim Hendricks and second to Baron Donald von Wiedenman (1971). In 1974, she traveled to London where she had a two-week engagement at the London Palladium. After performing to sellout crowds and basking in repeated ovations, Cass tragically succumbed to a heart attack on July 29, 1974 in London, following this successful concert tour (and NOT, as is commonly believed, from choking on a sandwich).

In 1998, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Cass Elliot and her fellow band-mates from The Mamas and The Papas into that institution. Her daughter Owen represented her mother and accepted her award.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Richard Barton Campbell/Rbcsoup@aol.com

Spouse (2)

Donald von Wiedenman (29 June 1971 - 1972) (divorced)
James Hendricks (1963 - 1969) (annulled)

Trivia (26)

Born at 9:0pm-EDT
An urban legend arose that she died choking on a ham sandwich because a partially eaten ham sandwich was found by her bed. When police were asked the cause of death prior to an autopsy, they speculated that she either died of a heart attack or choked to death on a ham sandwich, but she officially died of a heart attack. The autopsy revealed that a full third of her heart muscle had degenerated; bandmate Denny Doherty said later "Cassie literally died of a broken heart.".
Buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California - Court of Tanach, Lot 5000, Grave 2F.
Recording six albums after she went solo, she teamed briefly (and unsuccessfully) in 1971 with musician Dave Mason.
Her sister, Leah Kunkel, became the legal guardian of her daughter, Owen Elliot-Kugell (born in on 26 April 1967), upon her death in 1974.
Hated being called 'Mama' Cass, which she took as a derogatory comment on her 300+ poundage. Additionally, it bothered her that the moniker led many to mistakenly assume Cass was her last name.
She once guest hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962).
A member of the folk group "The Mugwumps" before hitting it big, she married one of its members, James Hendricks, to help him avoid the draft. The marriage was never consummated and was later annulled.
She actually preferred classical music, jazz and Broadway show tunes to rock.
She auditioned for the "Miss Marmelstein" stage role in "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" but lost out to Barbra Streisand.
She was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the other Mamas and Papas, in 1998. Her award was accepted by her daughter, Owen Elliot-Kugell.
Mother of Owen Elliot-Kugell, whose father's name she never revealed to anyone. Michelle Phillips helped Owen find her biological father.
Posed nude for Cheetah magazine.
Her last appearance on American television was on the quiz show Celebrity Sweepstakes (1974).
Ranked #23 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll
Is credited with helping to assemble the bands The Lovin' Spoonful and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
Had an IQ of 165.
Died in the same room, No. 12 at 9 Curzon Place in London, where The Who drummer Keith Moon died four years later. Musician Harry Nilsson was the leaseholder; after Moon's death, Nilsson sold the lease.
Older sister of Leah Kunkel.
Assumed the surname Elliot in memory of a dead friend.
The Crosby Stills & Nash Greatest Hits album was dedicated to her (2005).
Ex-sister-in-law of Russ Kunkel.
Aunt of Nathaniel Kunkel.
Was instrumental in the formation of Crosby Stills & Nash. According to legend, the trio first performed in the kitchen of her house in Laurel Canyon.
Formed the short-lived duo, "Mason and Cass", with former Traffic guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason.
Regularly drove approximately 40 miles from her home on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the Laurel Canyon section of the Hollywood Hills to the Malibu home of Julia Phillips so they could play the card game canasta during the early 1970s. Phillips, who lived with her husband on Nicholas Beach Rd. in the Trancas Highlands section of Malibu during that era, later devoted four pages to the singer in the bestselling book "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again." Phillips also claimed the singer hated the IRS and paid an outstanding debt of $10,000 to this government agency with a truckload of pennies that she arranged to leave outside its office near the 405 freeway in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. Phillips continued the story on page 154 of the book: "It was a costly joke -- finding the pennies and the truck large enough to do it cost her another three grand, not to mention being cited by the government for contempt and having to collect the pennies and remove them. All in all she came out about even. That was how it was with Cass. If she broke even, she was having fun.".

Personal Quotes (4)

When you're on stage, you gotta do it. People pay to see you, and they deserve to be entertained and you should go out there and really give it your best shot. And that's quite a challenge. You have a new audience for every show. Even though you do the same thing all the time, you gotta keep it fresh for yourself and you gotta keep it good and interesting and something you want to do. I'm anxious to have a really terrific act. Whatever it takes it takes.
Rock and roll is relentless. That's what I want to do in Las Vegas, not let up. Really pour it on.
I would say the world's in terrible shape, but I'm afraid the world would say, "Look who's talking"
Probably the biggest bring-down in my life was being in a pop group and finding out just how much it was like everything it was supposed to be against.

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