Black Dust

Legend Of Katherine Walsh

In the mid 1960's an up and coming American actress / model hit the screens with such vibrancy that it could have catapulted her into super stardom, if it hadn't been for an untimely end in her young life in London. Sadly today no-one is sure what happed and her death has remained an unsolved mystery since that fateful day. Katherine Walsh had a career ahead of her that reaped the rewards of rubbing shoulders with other world famous actors and showbiz people where a number of them became close friends.

She was born Katherine Victoria Walsh, the oldest of five children in Covington, Kenyon County, Kentucky, USA, on 11th April 1947 to Martha & Thomas Walsh. Her father Thomas was President of the Atlantic Underwriters Agency - her mother Martha 'Marty' Weiss Walsh was a housewife. Stranger still, Martha was told by doctors that she was unable to have children because doing so could kill her - yearning to have babies she went on to have five healthy children nonetheless - Katherine, sons Tim & Dennis and two other daughters, Susan & Sharon Ann.

Katherine attended the Villa Madonna Academy where her first starring role was the part of Alice in 'Alice in wonderland' and she grew up in Lakeside Place, Kentucky at 55 Paul Hesser Drive, after a brief spell in Beverley Hills when Martha decided to move in 1963. She was spotted by a talent scout who worked for William Morris Agency at the age of seventeen, but twelve months later, she signed a seven year contract at Columbia Pictures - kicking starting her career in acting and propelling her in her rise to stardom, a place that she loved.

In 1965, she moved to a plush apartment in Kensington, London - attending & graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the University of London studying acting along the way. These places were both in Bloomsbury & she even appeared on a London stage thought to be the Old Vic or the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane, popular spots in the day.

Heartache came Katherine's way when she turned 18, her father was tragically killed in a plane crash - American Airline Flight 383 got into trouble when it flew into thick cloud on its approach to the Cincinnati / North Kentucky International Airport. The plane descended more rapidly than expected, without either of the pilots in the cockpit noticing and came down on 8th November 1965 in Boone County, Kentucky, crashing into the woodland slopes of the valley just north of the airport. The plane exploded and burst into flames. It was Kathy at this tender age of 18 who brought joy back into the lives of the Walsh family in this difficult time and a prime case of; an old head on young shoulders.

Then came her big break, in 1966 the beautiful and well educated actress made her acting debut in the film 'The Chase'. She was cast as the character Verna Dee starring alongside such greats as Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and Robert Duvall to name but a few. This American drama was directed by Arthur Penn and its plot was about a series of events that were set into motion by a prison break of local baddie Bubber Reeves. Kathy gave an unforgettable performance in this role as the wild, sexy teenager, Dee.

Along with her brother Tim, they had started to write a biography together on the life of their late father Thomas, but it sadly, it was never completed.

She went on to guest star in the first episode of the first TV series of The Monkees, 'Royal Flush' that was aired on TV on 12th September 1966. Cast as Princess Bettina - Duchess of Harmonica, Davy rescues the Princess from drowning when her dodgy inflatable bursts. She leaves the beach with Davy's jacket and when he goes to get his jacket back, both he and the Monkees find out her uncle, Archduke Otto, is trying to dispose of Betina to prevent her from being Queen so he could become King himself.

Also in 1966, cast as Kathryn Walsh, Katherine took the part of Elizabeth Corbett in Daniel Boone. She appeared in episode 12 'The Lost Colony' in the third series of the show. Puzzling discoveries of a hundred year old grave marker & a mysterious woman send Daniel and Mingo on a course that leads them to the descendants of the lost colony at Cape Fear.

Playing alongside Don Quine (Stacey Grainger) in the fifth series of The Virginian in 1967, Katherine played Kathy Young in the 21st episode 'Without Mercy'. In the episode Kathy had formed a close relationship with Grainger, but seemingly like in real life, it was deemed that the Grainger family was the wrong sort of social class for Kathy. Kathy's father had been shot in the back and had his money stolen, it appeared that Grainger had done it as the evidence piled up against him. This seems frightfully ironic as the plot re-enacts itself for real a couple of years later when Katherine had dealings with the Ward family in similar circumstances.

Flourishing into a young and beautiful 20 year old woman, Katherine was having a ball, loving the new extraordinary lifestyle she was being accustomed to. The swinging sixties threw up parties that she was well aware of, socializing and mixing with the likes of The Monkees' stars Davy Jones & Peter Tork including Liverpool's new found superstar John Lennon. Champagne and drugs roamed freely and were a haven for the up and coming but we're not sure whether Katherine was part of this.

Her last professional acting assignment of her career was the part of Lulu in the 1967 film 'The Trip' written by Jack Nicholson and direction by Roger Corman. This starred Dennis Hopper & Peter Fonda as Paul Groves who takes his first dose of LSD while experiencing the heartbreak and uncertainty of the divorce from his beautiful wife played by Susan Strasberg. This may have also triggered an aspect of imagination in the young actress' life. Her first words spoken in the film was 'Hi' & 'Beautiful' in the pretence of being high.

In 1969 Katherine briefly became a Baroness when she married Baron Piers Patrick Francis von Westenholz, it lasted for little more than a few weeks but the marriage to Westenholz was not listed in Peerage because it was annulled. She was linked soon after with a Peter Ward, a man from a pretty well to do family but they seemed against the relationship with Katherine from the very start and if the news got out about the two, it would have discredited the family at that particular time. Maybe he was already married, but whatever the resentment towards her, Kathy seemed keen to keep the relationship discreet. The reasoning is not totally known, and it is thought that the Ward's could have done anything to prevent the relationship happening, but could this have possibly included murder?

As the parties mounted and enjoying the company of some close friends including John & Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty of The Mamas & Papas, Dennis Hopper, Fess Parker and Doug McClure, Katherine's time came to a sudden end on the evening of 7th October 1970. She was found in an unresponsive state at an apartment in Kensington after one particular party, and taken to hospital where she was proclaimed dead on arrival. The news devastated the family, especially her mother.

Over the years different versions of what happened have changed somewhat depending who you talk to, from family & friends to the paparazzi. The police recorded her legal name as Katherine Victoria von Westenholz. Her death was treated as an accident but no details have ever known to be released. Was there any cover up? The truth of the matter is, the case remains unsolved to this day.

No one can actually fathom out whether it was murder, accidental death or suicide because no one seems to really know the full details. It's hard to determine whether alcohol and drugs were involved or whether the death is suicide or accidental, so it appears that murder was not the case.

However, Katherine's sister Susan was unconvinced - she believes that it was no way an accident, the way the papers made it out to be. They said it was an accident claiming Katherine had too much to drink and choked to death when she was vomiting in her sleep. Susan continued with her theory that Kathy was actually found with her head between the toilet and the wall. She is adamant that someone else was there, and when Kathy was sick they forced her to choke. As the party was at the Wards' home, Susan believed that it may have been someone from the Ward family who helped kill her because of the scandal that could have unfolded had Kathy got word out about her relationship with Peter.

Katherine's other sister Sharon seemed sure it was an over-dramatic act that went terribly wrong, believing Kathy threatened to do herself in with pills and alcohol but not meaning to. This doesn't paint the usual picture of a suicidal person, but maybe an accidental overdose was the cause of her tragic death. The Coroner's report in London returned an open verdict because of insufficient evidence stating that "Kathy died of alcoholic and barbiturate poisoning but it had been impossible to determine whether it was suicide or accidental."

Other stories claimed that she had died in her own apartment, maybe someone had followed her home, or she may have had some friends with her. The murder basis stems from the fact that one or two people may have been with her and did nothing to help because they may have been in the same drunken, drug-fuelled state and were unable to help. Either way Katherine had been to a party, was happy and cheerful when she was there, she was divorced and had moved on, her career - even though she was relatively new to the scene, was escalating upwards towards stardom.

Katherine's brother Tim said that "the family had heard the news of her death from a friend in London at 3.30am London time the following day." He also added "that when Kathy got ill, an ambulance was called and within 15 minutes, she was dead." Her body was returned to Mount Werner, Colorado, home of her widowed mother for burial. Kathy was buried with her father Thomas at Sainte Anne Cemetery in Danville, Quebec. The multi-talented actress was just 23 years old when she died.

Her legacy remains as popular today as did back then. For sure she still has an army of fans. She was well liked and the late Davy Jones recently said "Kathy Walsh was a bright fun person that worked on the Monkees show. Mike, Micky, Peter and I saw her most days on the set while filming when additional actors were employed".

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