Friday The 13th Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The "Friday the 13th" franchise has logged 12 films since its debut on May 9, 1980. The entire series was an excuse for mindless violence involving everything from knives and axes to sauna rocks and corkscrews. Every film in the series was rated 'R' by the MPAA, yet it appealed to those with a decidedly adolescent sensibility — from an adult perspective, the series is of very dubious quality. 

In fact, watching a compilation of Siskel and Ebert's scathing reviews provides greater entertainment. Particularly amusing was Ebert's po-faced rant about "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter," which he described as "an immoral and reprehensible piece of trash." But whatever you think about the merits of "Friday the 13th," there is no doubting that hundreds of people worked together to make the films happen, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for what Ebert waspishly termed "sleaze merchants." Many of the cast and crew members were young when they appeared in the franchise, so most of them are alive today. Yet death, of course, can strike at any age. Here are the "Friday the 13th" actors you may not know passed away.

Walt Gorney

One of the oldest actors in the "Friday the 13th" franchise, Walt Gorney played the character of Crazy Ralph in "Friday the 13th" and "Friday the 13th Part 2." Gorney was born on April 12, 1912 in Vienna, which, along with Budapest, was the joint capital city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

His film career in the United States was rather sparse, making small and sometimes uncredited appearances in "Cops and Robbers," "King Kong" and "Nunzio." It wasn't until his turn as Crazy Ralph that Gorney reached a wide audience. His long, wiry frame was perfect for Ralph, an eccentric doomsayer who warns all those who will listen about the 'death curse' of Camp Crystal Lake. He was so good in the role that even his fellow actors thought he was crazy. In the documentary "Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th," actress Jeannine Taylor said, "I thought Walt Gorney really was crazy, he kind of frightened me. I realize now that he might have been a little eccentric but he was just a very fine character actor."

As an actor of conviction, Gorney may have had reservations about appearing in a schlocky horror film. But then again, which stage actor doesn't secretly enjoy a bit of camp scenery chewing? After all, he reprised his role in "Friday the 13th Part 2." Walt Gorney died on March 5, 2004 in New York City. He was 91.

Betsy Palmer

Betsy Palmer brought some Broadway pedigree to "Friday the 13th." Born in 1926 in East Chicago, Indiana, Betsy Palmer began her career in show business with TV dramas such as "Miss Susan" and the game show "I've Got a Secret," in which she appeared nearly 200 times.

In the documentary "Return to Crystal Lake: Making Friday the 13th," Palmer confessed that she only took the job because she needed $10,000 to buy a Volkswagen Scirocco. Palmer recalled how she thought the script was a 'piece of junk' and that nobody would ever see it. Palmer hoped that "Friday the 13th" would come and go and she'd ride off into the sunset with her VW Scirocco, ready for a career in dramatic roles. However, the film would gross almost $60 million at the box office, which was 108.6 times the production budget of $550,000. This huge success redefined Palmer for a generation of moviegoers. Happily, she grew to embrace her new cult following, "I was dumb, 'Friday the 13th' is an excellent film. I am now called the Queen of the Slashers ... I love going to these events [Friday the 13th Reunion]. People are so sweet, it's really adorable." Betsy Palmer died on May 29, 2015 in Danbury, Connecticut. She was 88.

Richard Brooker

Kane Hodder may be the most famous actor to play Jason Voorhees, but Richard Brooker was the first actor to play Jason in his signature hockey mask. Also, Brooker's incarnation of Jason is something of a fan favorite. Brooker performed Jason as a human being rather than an undead superhuman, which Jason would become in the sequels, especially "Part VI: Jason Lives", "Part VII: The New Blood", and "Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan." 

On a YouTube video compiling Brooker's scenes in the movie, fans commented how Brooker gave "creepiest Jason performance" and that he "adds layers to him that none of the other movies really captured." Fans would have been happy to see Brooker reprise the role, but unfortunately he never got the call. This is doubly unfortunate because, in a rare 2005 interview, Brooker stated that he would have accepted the offer to don the hockey mask again. Sadly, on April 8, 2013, Brooker's death was announced by his agent, who did not disclose the cause of the death. Brooker was just 58 years old.

Tom McBride

Tom McBride's IMDb page remembers the late actor with a badly cropped photo of his character's brutal death in "Friday the 13th Part 2." It's a curious choice for an online biography picture, yet this bloody moment has entered the annals of "Friday the 13th" history. McBride plays Mark, a jock and wheelchair user. Because of his vulnerability, you wonder if the filmmakers will spare his life, or at least give him a quick, low key death. But no. Instead, Mark receives a machete to the face, sending him back in his wheelchair and down a long flight of steps. No "Friday the 13th" 'best kill' list is complete without reference to poor Mark.

Sadly, Mark would be McBride's last notable film role. In the mid-'90s, he was diagnosed with AIDS. His illness was documented in "Life and Death on the A-List," an absorbing and intimate account of sexuality and illness not unlike the gut wrenching "Silverlake Life: The View From Here." McBride was a big name in New York's gay community, sometimes referred to as an "A-list" gay and a "demigod of the gay world."

Symptoms of McBride's condition included seizures, rashes and a gradual paralysis in the left side of his body. Yet he presented himself openly and without self-pity, singing and joking about his mortality, with which he was bravely comfortable. "I'm afraid of dying, but I'm not afraid of death," was the line he subscribed to. In the documentary's last 10 minutes, it cuts to McBride's final state. In these September days of 1995, McBride's personality was gone. Paralysis had stiffened his shriveled, sunken body. His face was blank, his eyes haunted. He was awake but his voice was reduced to a murmur. It was the tragic conclusion to Tom McBride's 42-year life.

James Isaac

"Jason X" was reviled by just about everyone when it hit theaters back in 2002. "This sucks on so many levels," wrote Roger Ebert, whose sentiment was the general consensus. There were some exceptions, however. The liquid nitrogen kill became a fan favorite, and several film writers have reappraised the film, expressing their 'admiration' for what is (via Nerdist) "pure, mindless fun." Alas, director James Isaac did not get to read those features, for he died in 2012 of (per Horror Society) a "rare type of blood cancer" aged just 51. 

Isaac was a friend and colleague of David Cronenberg, who had a bloody "Jason X" cameo as Dr. Wimmer, a complacent scientist whom Jason quickly dispatches. Isaac worked with the revered Canadian director on "The Fly," "Naked Lunch" and "eXistenZ," serving as a special effects technician and advisor. Isaac also had a working relationship with Sean S. Cunningham, the director of the first "Friday the 13th" film. In fact, Cunningham was directly involved in "Jason X," which took shape during a meeting between Isaac, Cunningham, writer Todd Farmer and producer Noel Cunningham. After the middling box office success of "Jason X," Isaac directed two more horror features — "Skinwalkers" and "Pig Hunt." Sadly, these would be Isaac's last films. 

Gloria Charles

In "Friday the 13th Part III," Gloria Charles appeared as Fox, a biker girl who travels with a gang of leathered good-for-nothings. Fox and her friends think they're pretty badass until they meet Jason. He is ready for them with an arsenal of clubs, blades, and especially an old fashioned pitchfork — which he uses to impale Fox on barn rafters. 

After her grisly end in Camp Crystal Lake, Charles would feature in "Brewster's Millions" and "National Lampoon's European Vacation," as well as television appearances in "Falcon Crest" and "The A-Team." In 1992, Charles entered a long hiatus until 2010, when she appeared in the short film "A Blind Man." She also featured in "Crystal Lake Memories," a sweeping documentary about the entire "Friday the 13th" series. Sadly, three years after the documentary, Charles died on December 8, 2016. The cause of her death is unclear, but a GoFundMe page said that she required "24 hour, around the clock, in-home care." She was just 61 years old.

John Carl Buechler

John Carl Buechler was a special effects technician, makeup artist and director who worked on dozens of projects in the '80s, '90s and '00s. He also served as head of the effects department at New World Pictures, which was co-founded by B-movie legend Roger Corman, who deemed Buechler to be "the best in the business." In 1988, Buechler directed "Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood," which pitted Jason against a teenage girl with telekinetic powers. He also served as line producer for the special effects make-up unit and, as you can see in the above picture, appeared in an uncredited role as 'Fireman Who Picks Up Jason's Mask.' The film continued the franchise's box office success, earning domestic grosses of $19,170,001 on a production budget of just $2,800,000. 

However, the salaries Buechler earned during his distinguished career were undone during the "never-ending and expensive treatments" he endured for stage 4 prostate cancer, which depleted the life savings he shared with his wife, Lynn. Sadly, Buechler died from the condition on March 17, 2019. Many sources list his death as occurring on March 18, but his wife Lynn said that is incorrect. In a GoFundMe post, Lynn added, "He was a terrific husband & partner. A wonderful father to our 3 children. He was so courageous in his battle, he never complained once & I don't think he ever realized his time was near."

Ron Palillo

Ron Palillo appeared in "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" as Allen Hawes, the friend of lead character Tommy Jarvis, played by Thom Mathews. Together, they enter Crystal Lake — renamed'Forest Green — to visit the grave of Jason Voorhees, whose corpse Tommy intends to burn. However, quite the opposite is achieved when a bolt of lightning strikes Jason's rotten cadaver, bringing him back to life. Of course, his first and only impulse is to kill, and he satisfies this impulse by ramming his fist into Hawes's chest and ripping out his heart, bringing Palillo's character to an abrupt end within the opening 10 minutes.

Palillo was best known for his role in "Welcome Back, Kotter," the hit high school sitcom that launched John Travolta's career. Palillo played Arnold Horshack, a class cown with a wacky, wheezing laugh. The show's 95-episode run lasted from 1975 to 1979, after which Palillo entered a period of depression, according to ABC News. In the 1990s he had something of a second career as a stage actor and director, appearing in productions of "Amaedeus," "Guys and Dolls" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Sadly, Palillo died of a heart attack on August 14, 2012. He was just 63 years old. In reaction to Palillo's death, John Travolta said, "Ron was a wonderful person and talent and helped catapult 'Welcome Back, Kotter' to great success. We will miss him."

Laurie Bartram

Laurie Bartram was a series regular on the soap opera "Another World" when she signed on for the role of Brenda in "Friday the 13th." Brenda is one of the doomed counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake and is among the last of them to be killed by Mrs. Voorhees. She was popular with the cast and crew. Lead actress Adrienne King said, "We miss her so dearly. She was truly the heart and soul on that production. She was who you saw, worried about everyone." Jeannine Taylor concurred, "I was really shocked to hear she had died so young. Beautiful person inside and out." 

Despite her way with people and the huge platform of "Friday the 13th," Bartram had other priorities. According to her obituary, she chose to leave the entertainment industry and pursue an education at Liberty Baptist College. She then spent 15 years homeschooling her five children. Tragically, on May 26, 2007 — just nine days after her 49th birthday — Laurie Bartram died from pancreatic cancer.

Dominick Brascia

Dominick Brascia started out as a film and TV actor, appearing in "Knight Rider," "Night Court" and "Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning," which was the first film not to feature Jason Voorhees, who had 'died' in the previous film, "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter." Brascia appeared as Joey Burns, a large and simple kid who doesn't know when to give people space. This faux pas gets him in serious trouble when he bothers Victor Faden, who proceeds to butcher him with an axe. 

Later in life, Brascia worked as a radio personality in Texas, Alabama, California and Colorado. Eventually, he settled in Bozeman, Montana, where he hosted "Dominick in the Morning" on AM 1450 KMMS. Brascia's show addressed a "variety of topics" and was described as "using a quick wit to create an open platform where ideas were exchanged in a unique way between himself, his on-air guests and callers." On November 26, 2018, Brascia died of "natural causes" at the age of 62.

Steve Susskind

The character of Harold was Steve Susskind's second acting credit, his first being the role of Mr. Popadopolus in "Archie Bunker's Place." Harold is the henpecked husband of Edna, who spends much of her brief screen presence berating him. After being told off several times, Harold is murdered by Jason Voorhees with a meat cleaver to a chest. Not one to pick favorites, Jason sorts Edna out, too, stabbing her in the back of the head with a knitting needle.

After his brief and bloody appearance in "Friday the 13th," Susskind went on to appear in movies such as "House," "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" and "Monsters, Inc." and sitcoms including "Seinfeld" and "Frasier." On January 21, 2005, at the age of just 62, Susskind died in a car accident. According to the Los Angeles Times, Susskind's limousine was struck by another vehicle as he drove through Tujunga, a neighborhood just north of La Tuna Canyon Park.

Mark Venturini

Mark Venturini appeared as Victor, the aforementioned axe murderer who kills poor Joey in "Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning," which was released in 1985. Later that year, in August, Venturini's second horror feature "The Return of the Living Dead" was released in the US. Directed by Dan O'Bannon, "Living Dead" earned a cult status among fans and critics, whose consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads, "A punk take on the zombie genre, Return of the Living Dead injects a healthy dose of '80s silliness to the flesh consuming."

After this success, Venturini spent the rest of the 1980s assuming small roles in everything from "Knight Rider" to "Murder, She Wrote." His final role was in "Out-of-Sync," a crime vehicle for star LL Cool J, who was trying to migrate from music to film and television. Tragically, eight months after the film's release, Venturini's life and career were cut short when he died aged just 35 on February 14, 1996.

Rex Everhart

Born on June 13, 1920, Rex Everhart was one of the older actors in the original "Friday the 13th" movie. He had a small role as 'The Truck Driver,' who helps Annie Phillips on her way to Camp Crystal Lake. Before Annie gets in the truck, the driver has to shoo Crazy Ralph away, who warns of the camp's 'death curse.' The driver doesn't disagree with Ralph, though. He informs Annie of the camp's dark past and advises her to quit. She laughs it off, jovially calling him an "American original." Of course, Ralph and the driver are proved right when Annie has her throat slit

An everyman with a burly authoritative quality, Everhart appeared as cops in "Superman" and "The Seven-Ups." He also voiced Maurice, the portly father of Belle, in "Beauty and the Beast." A handful of TV roles followed before he appeared to retire in 1993. Seven years later on March 13, 2000, Rex Everhart died from lung cancer. He was 79 years old.

Travis Davis

Oklahoma native Travis Davis was a jobbing film and TV actor throughout the '90s and '00s, appearing in shows such as "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "The Wild Thornberrys". He also lent his voice to video games including the "Medal of Honor" and "Command and Conquer" series. Perhaps his biggest role was Officer Lund in the 2009 reboot of "Friday the 13th," which earned over $92 million at the worldwide box office. Later in the year, Davis had supporting roles in "12 Rounds," a John Cena vehicle, and "G-Force," a live action animation with Zach Galifianakis.

Sadly, just three months after "G-Force" had its US debut, Travis Davis died of stomach cancer on October 12, 2009. He was just 40 years old. In remembrance, fellow actor D.C. Douglas wrote, "He was a voiceover and on-camera actor who also wrote, directed and produced his own film shorts. He was a go-getter and very talented. We were acquaintances for over a decade."