On a recent trip to Hillside Memorial Park, I stopped by the family room of Hollywood superstar Michael Landon, located in the mausoleum's Memorial Court, and noticed that the crypt of his eldest son, Mark Fraser Landon, was marked.
It took some doing to see the marker, let alone photograph it, because Mark's remains are entombed in the tippy-top of seven stacked crypt spaces along the right wall, barely visible when initially looking inside the locked, glass-fronted door.
Mark was adopted by Landon during Landon's (first) marriage (1956-1962) to Mark's mother, Dodie Levy-Fraser, a widow who has been raising Mark alone after her husband was killed in a car accident. He lived his life in the spotlight once Landon achieved star status on the television series "Bonanza," appearing in publicity photos and fan magazines alongside his teen-idol dad.
Michael, Mark and Dodie (Courtesy BittenandBound.com)
Throughout the ensuing years and Landon's two other marriages, by all accounts, Mark and Michael remained devoted, although Mark and his brother Josh Landon (adopted by the couple as an infant) lived with Dodie. Landon's unofficially-adopted daughter from his second marriage, Cheryl Landon Wilson, sympathetically mentioned in her book "I Promised My Dad" (Simon & Schuster, 1992) that Dodie lived with the gossipy stigma of being "the woman Michael Landon married because he loved her son."
Growing into adulthood, Mark became a passionate musician, having studied classical piano, and did some acting, including guest appearances in his dad's television series "Highway to Heaven" and 1991 television movie, "Us," and other films, "Double Edge" in 1986 and "Goodbye America" in 1997.He also appeared alongside his numerous siblings in the 1991 documentary, "Michael Landon: Memories with Love & Laughter," which was produced and directed by his brother, Michael Landon Jr., after their father's death in July of that year. Landon died a scant three months after having been diagnosed with inoperable, stage four pancreatic cancer.
You can see Mark telling a story about his dad at 2:00 into this clip from the documentary provided by YouTuber ElvisObsessor.
Mark's life came to an abrupt end on May 11, 2009. News bulletins reporting that the eldest son of star Michael Landon had been found dead inside his West Hollywood residence from unknown circumstances flashed across the country. Sheriff investigators ruled out foul play and the story quickly fell off the radar.
So, what happened? Subsequent research reveals that Mark had been suffering for several years from both
and emotional effects of Multiple Sclerosis, despite prescription
medication and holistic forms of treatment to ease the symptoms. MS is
a disease that affects the central nervous system, namely the brain and
the spinal cord. Problems associated with MS include muscle control and
strength, vision, balance, feeling and thinking.
That said, Mark was last seen alive on May 8. His concerned business manager
requested that a welfare check be made by Mark's Sweetzer Ave. apartment building manager, who discovered Mark unresponsive in the master bedroom and called 911.
Mark was reported to be 60 at the time of his death. His birthdate is listed on several public documents as being October 1, 1948, but the birth year on his crypt marker is 1945, indicating his age to be 63.
Special thanks goes out to my friends Craig, Scott and Phil for their assists on this story. "Michael Landon: A Biography" by Marsha Daly (St. Martin's Press, 1987) was also consulted.