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The Life of Connecticut’s Marilyn Chambers “Just your average girl next door”

“Just your average girl next door”
The Life of Connecticut’s Marilyn Chambers



"My life could have been a lot fuller. You know, I was never really super-happily married, I didn't have a big family that I wanted, I didn't get to experience . . . I don't know. I've always thought of myself as just an everyday kind of a person, and I made myself into a 'star' and that's how I had to live. But there also comes a time when you've gotta say 'Thank you, goodnight.' I'm a little bitter. I think things should have gone differently in some instances that didn't. But you know what? I had a great run, I had a good time, and a lot of people are making a lot of money off my name. Maybe I'll open up a geriatric home for old porno stars." Marilyn Chambers

Marilyn Chambers, one of the world’s first and last porn stars was born Marilyn Ann Briggs and Marc Lane in Westport, the youngest child of William Briggs, an advertising executive, and Virginia Briggs, a nurse. For all given purposes, or at least based on what the public knows, her early life was comfortably upper middle class and mundane. Her older sister and a younger brother followed a normal, predictable path into adulthood and Marilyn’s early years were similar. She graduated from Staples High School, where she was a cheerleader and a member of the Staples Players, the schools above average acting troupe and landed parts in several school musicals. She was also an accomplished gymnast and champion diver at the Patterson Club.

She began to skip classes and journey down to New York to audition for acting and modeling jobs. Against all odds she was hired to play the role of Robert Klein's girlfriend in The Owl and the Pussycat, a big dollar film production starring Barbra Streisand and George Segal.

 The Wilhelmina modeling agency picked her up and got her a photo shoot as the young mother of an infant on the box of Proctor & Gamble's Ivory Snow, which sold itself as "99 44/100% pure" and more work came from Clairol and Coca-Cola.

At 19 Marilyn Chambers looked like a girl who had the world on a string, but all was not well.  According to friends, her home life was empty. Her parents were deeply involved in their own lives. She was alone a lot. Her father was a womanizer who carried on openly with several women including a neighbor. He eventually left his wife for the mother of one of Marilyn's classmates but remarried again after the other women died from a brain aneurysm.

Marilyn began to unwind little by little. In her junior year, she was tossed off the cheerleading squad for drinking. She became desperate for attention. 

"She had” an old boyfriend recalled “an overwhelming need for attention and great gobs of it. I mean, she just doted on anyone who paid any attention to her at all. And, of course, it was inevitable that the male animal was going to look at something so young and nubile. Anyway, we went to a party one night, and she went off with somebody else, and that was pretty much the last time I was with her."   

Her role in The Owl and the Pussycat got her an actors card in the Screen Actors Guild and in 1971 Marilyn and friends from Westport drove out to California where the films are made. Marilyn found her way to San Francisco

What probably brought her San Francisco and not LA was a film she had done in 1970. Chambers got a role, a nude scene, in a legitimate if low-budget film, called Together. appearing under her real name, Marilyn Briggs. The film was directed by Sean Cunningham (Who later did Friday the 13th and Spring Break) and was filmed primarily around his house in Westport.


Reportedly, the porn producers Artie and Jim Mitchell saw the film, were knocked by Chambers wholesome Cybil Shepherd looks and offered her a film they were planning called Behind the Green Door. They also changed her name to Chambers. The fact that she was already The Ivy Snow Girl, seen on hundreds of thousands if not millions of soap boxes, was extra icing on the cake.

Image result for the mitchell brothers, porn

In Marilyn’s version of what happened "I moved to San Francisco thinking it was the entertainment capital of the world, which it is indeed not." She met Doug Chapin while he was playing bagpipes for money on the streets. They married just a few weeks later. There were no other film offers after that and Marilyn held down a series of odd jobs that included topless model and nude dancer in a men’s club. One day she answered a casting call advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle for a "major motion picture" being made by the Mitchell brothers.

She said that at the audition she realized it was a part in a pornographic film and was about to leave when the Mitchell noticed her resemblance to Cybill Shepherd and talked her into taking the lead role in the film, which she did after negotiating a contract for $25,000, plus a percentage of the profits. The film cost about $50,000 to make and grossed well over $25 million, although Marilyn saw pitifully little of that cash.

In the film, she played the silent role of a woman kidnapped and forced to perform sexual acts with men and women. She was 19 years old when Behind the Green Door was released to sold-out theaters. Only a few months before Deep Throat had been released shooting Linda Lovelace to dubious fame.  It was the beginning of the short-lived, so-called, Golden Age of Porn. Ivory Snow sales went through the roof.



A high school friend who was visiting Chambers in California right after Green Door was completed recalled "When I walked into the apartment, she said, 'Come here, I've got to show you something. And she opened this envelope with the proofs of the Ivory Snow girl and the check she had gotten, and she said, 'They are gonna shit when they find out what I'm doing.' They put those boxes on the shelves literally when she got that check and she went out and bought all of them from her local grocery store. I mean, she had boxes of Ivory Snow until she died. I think she knew it would be a huge controversy."

Procter & Gamble replaced her photograph immediately.

In 1974, at the height of her of porn popularity, Chambers divorced Chapin and married Chuck Traynor, who was recently divorced from Linda Lovelace. For the next ten years, Traynor acted as her business manager and agent who took half of her film profits as a commission.
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Traynor

Traynor had an awful reputation in the business, most of it gained from his former wife, porn star Linda Lovelace who claimed Traynor stole her money, placed guns to her and viciously beat her although Chambers never reported any bad behavior from him.  
Traynor did make attempts to bring Marilyn closer to the mainstream. In 1976 he arranged for Marilyn’s Playboy shoot and in 1976 she had some limited exposure with the disco single Benihana.
Image result for marilyn chambers

 In 1979, Marilyn was chosen to play a role in the mainline film City Blues, about a young hooker defended by a down and out lawyer, played by the magnificent actor Rip Torn. The film was to be produced and directed by Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) but by then the 68-year-old Ray was too addicted to drugs and drink to complete the project.

Rip Torn, Ray and Marilyn

A year before that Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel (Below) brought her in to talk about a role in Goin' South. According to Chambers when she arrived for the interview Nicholson and Garfunkel asked for cocaine and wanted to know if her orgasms in Behind the Green Door. Furious, Chambers stormed out of the meeting, or so she says.

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She was briefly considered for a lead part in Hardcore, opposite George C. Scott, but the casting director determined that she was too wholesome looking for the part.

"I thought,” Chambers said “that there was a chance to cross over. Boy, was I wrong."
"The paradox was” she added “that, as a result of Green Door, Hollywood blackballed me, [Green Door] became a very high-grossing film...But, to a lot of people, it was still a dirty movie; for me to do anything else, as an actress, was totally out of the question. I became known as a porno star, and that type of labeling really hurt me. It hurt my chances of doing anything else".

In 1985, while making public appearances, she was arrested twice for allowing audience members to touch her with their hands and mouths during her show. By then Chambers was well on her way to becoming addicted to alcohol and cocaine. Five years later she married William Taylor, part-owner, and driver in a freight trucking company. The couple met in rehab. They divorced in 1994.

Image result for chuck traynor
Traynor and Chambers

By 2000, Chambers world was completely changed. Chuck Traynor was dead from a heart attack. In 1991, Jim Mitchell shot and killed his brother Artie and went to prison. He died in 2007. She still made porn films, but the big dollar days were over, and Marilyn was forced to hustle work as a nursing assistant in a retirement home. 

Image result for marilyn chambers,westport

She signed autographs at porn conventions and to keep herself in the public eye, Chambers ran for Vice President in 2004 (Personal Choice Party) and in 2008 (Boston Tea Party)

Marilyn at her 30th High School Reunion in Westport.

She would spend almost three decades battling alcoholism and drug addiction and waiting for her chance to break out into legitimate film. She and her third husband, Bill Taylor, shared custody of their 17-year-old daughter, McKenna Marie Taylor, and to be closer to her, Marilyn leased a mobile home outside of Santa Clarita, where McKenna was living with her father.

Money was tight. Years before she had bought dozens of boxes of Ivory Snow that pictured her on the cover. Chambers signed them and sold them on eBay. So, using the name Marilyn Taylor, she took a job as a clerk in a local car BMW dealership making about $1,200 a week before taxes.

Image result for marilyn chambers

There were no men in her life.  “I felt” a girlfriend of hers said later “that a few people in the later years took advantage of her just to say, 'I just slept with Marilyn Chambers,' and led her on and then blew her off, and she was hurt, really hurt."

Just before she died Chambers auditioned in New York for The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, a play about the making of the film, Deep Throat, and its obscenity trial. She was hired on to play the role of Shana Babcock, Linda Lovelace’s best friend who constantly advises the Lovelace character to leave the abusive Chuck Traynor. Marilyn planned to quit her clerk's job at the car dealership after she got another part, in a small part in a low-budget film, Solitaire, playing the role of a Rhode Island cop. She wouldn’t live to see the finished production.

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On April 14, McKenna Marie Taylor, Marilyn’s 17-year-old daughter from her third marriage to trucking executive Tom Taylor, found Marilyn’s body in her trailer in Santa Clarita. A brain aneurysm killed her. She died alone and had been dead for at least two days before she was found. She was 56 years old, ten days away from her 57th birthday.

A memorial service was held, attended by at least 200 people, most of them from the   Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups she belonged to.  A few days after she was cremated someone apparently broke into Marilyn’s trailer and ransacked it. Files, her will, and jewelry seem to have been taken. Aside from a $20,000 life insurance policy for her daughter, Chambers died broke. Her mobile home was returned to the dealer; her economy car was nearly worthless.

Her ashes were scattered at sea.



I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted. Jack Kerouac,


On the Waterfront




** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***



BINGHAM CAMP THEATRE RETREAT
BCTR is looking for playwrights, composers, and lyricists of color interested in developing their new musical or play. The work must be able to be performed with a multiethnic cast. The winning musical submission will have a two-week workshop this fall at the Bingham Camp in Salem, Connecticut culminating in a staged presentation to an invited audience.
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Pipedream Productions presents: Piping Hot New Works–In the Dark
We are looking for short play submissions (10-15 minutes MAX).
Easy enough? Well, there's a catch. The audience will be blindfolded; therefore, your play will be read to an audience in total darkness. If your play does not take this into consideration, we will not accept your submission. Get creative, get wacky, and show us what you've got!

***

THE 2018 THEATRE503 PLAYWRITING AWARD
The Theatre503 Playwriting award is now open for entries. The Theatre503 Playwriting Award is made possible by the long term support of Carne Trust.

*** FOR MORE INFORMATION about these and other opportunities see http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


*** BLACK HISTORY MONTH ***

“It’s very popular to be a black actor in January and February,” says Deondra Kamau Means, the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s artistic coordinator of education and outreach.

He’s referring, of course, to the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for tales about African-American history during that period from mid-January’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to the end of February – Black History Month.

Black History Month has been controversial ever since it was formally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. On the positive side, it has encouraged the American public to broaden its definition of “American History.” On the flip side, it sometimes feels like African-American history has been relegated to a six-week ghetto.

Since mid-January, for instance, Means has been touring in a one-man show called “Martin’s Dream.” The production, a part of the Children’s Theatre’s TCT on Tour program, will keep the actor on the road until Feb. 28. Then, it’s back to his desk. Black History Month is done. And so, apparently, is interest in Dr. King.

More…

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10 CONTEMPORARY BLACK PLAYWRIGHTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating black excellence by highlighting some of the very best black artists producing and creating work today. This week we’re focusing on 10 contemporary black playwrights you should know:

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Named a MacArthur Genius in 2016, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is on his way to being a household name but has been well-known in Boston for some time now. Company One first produced his work in 2011 with Neighbors, a play about a group of rowdy and shameless black actors that move into a white neighborhood. SpeakEasy Stage Company produced Jacob-Jenkins Appropriate in Fall 2015, just before Company One and ArtsEmerson collaborated for a sold-out run of An Octoroon — Jacobs-Jenkins won Obies for both works when they were in New York. His work is renowned for its dark humor, explosive surprises, and commentary on race in America.

More…

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During a month that celebrates the trails blazed by African Americans, a group of black high school students is making history. Selena Jackson-King, Allen Pettis, Jordan Smith, Robert Dennis, Tarin Woodard, Alanna Groves and Jaime Young Irvin are the leading cast members of the first play about an African American family to be told on the stage of Jeffersonville High School.

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” opens Thursday and follows Daniel and Wilona Watson as they pack up their family and head to Birmingham, Ala., from Flint, Mich., during the “Jim Crow” South. The plot is funny until suddenly, and tragically, there is a turn and the family and audience are reminded that, as one student put it, “it’s all fun and games… until it’s not.”

“One of the things we’ve talked about is Jeff High theater has always had, as long as I can remember, diversity and you see that diversity on stage, but I think for these students, one thing they expressed to me that’s different is it’s great to be an African American student playing a traditionally white role. It’s an entirely different thing to be an African American student telling an African American story that was written by an African American playwright,” Patti Miller, theater teacher and director of the play, said.


More…

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'Flight': Slavery Narratives Onstage

The Los Angeles Center Theatre Group’s youth theatre program P.L.A.Y. (Performing for Los Angeles Youth) recently commissioned writer and performance artist Charlayne Woodward to create a play about the African-American storytelling tradition. The only catch was the play had to appeal to both adults and children.

Woodward happily accepted the offer — after all, she will tell you that storytelling is in her blood. After some searching, she centered on an oral tradition that was both theatrical and stirring: slave narratives, the testimonials about slavery by the slaves themselves.

More…

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For Lorraine Hansberry, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ Was Just the Start

A few months before her death from pancreatic cancer in early 1965, the playwright Lorraine Hansberry spoke about a letter to the editor that she sent to, but that was ultimately rejected by, The New York Times. Standing before a racially integrated Town Hall audience in New York, Ms. Hansberry, then 34, sought to counter the growing white liberal criticism of the racial militancy expressed by a younger generation of African-Americans.

“And I wrote to The Times and said, you know, ‘Can’t you understand that this is the perspective from which we are now speaking?’” Hansberry said. “It isn’t as if we got up today and said, you know, ‘what can we do to irritate America?’ you know. It’s because that since 1619, Negroes have tried every method of communication, of transformation of their situation from petition to the vote, everything. We’ve tried it all. There isn’t anything that hasn’t been exhausted.”

This image of Hansberry — exasperated, fatigued and sympathetic to the nationalist ideologies that would later blossom in the Black Power movement — might surprise those who know her only through the success of “A Raisin in the Sun.” With that much-lauded play, about a working-class African-American family on the verge of racially desegregating a Chicago suburb, Hansberry became the first African-American woman to have a show produced on Broadway, in 1959.

More…


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ONE DROP
WRITTEN BY ANDREA J. FULTON
DIRECTED BY SABURA RASHID

The politics of "passing" in post-war Louisiana come to life through the story of a young man who could be held back by hate, but is led forward by love.

"One Drop," a family drama with music by Andrea J. Fulton, brings to life the politics of a young mixed-race man's "passing" for white in post-Civil War Louisiana, illustrating the risks taken by those not afraid to love despite bigotry.  The piece, inspired by the playwright's actual family history, tells the story of a family torn apart by racism but ultimately reunited.  It debuted in Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival in 2010.  TNC will present a revival of the play, directed by Sabura Rashid, from February 1 to 18 in honor of Black History Month.

Born out of wedlock to a white woman and a Black man in 1876, the play's central character, Charley Cade, is exiled from his biological mother's plantation home before he was even born. Raised by an adoptive Black mother, adolescent Charley inherits the task of "passing" for white because of his light skin. Instead of "passing" to gain stature in a white-dominated society, Charley passes to "make a point" to friends, with whom he jokes about how easily he can appear as white. Beneath the jokes, however, lies a crucial choice-- to whom is Charley loyal? His adoptive mother, LaTessa, who withheld knowledge of Charley's biological past for his life's sake, and who represents to him the Black community that nurtured him? Or to his white peers, to whom "one drop" of non-white blood is enough to justify murdering him for the sake of preserving the legacy of slavery-era racism?

More…
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rain


True grace



The Murder of Diane McDermott

The Murder of Diane McDermott


In February of 1967, a 20-year-old woman named Diane Florence McDermott died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head. She was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital but died within the hour.

A gun found in Diane’s left hand, even though she was right-handed. The size of the gun was too small to have created the damage to her head and the weapon that did kill her had been pressed to the left side of the back of her head. There were no nitrates (by-products of burned gunpowder) on her hands.

The house was a triple-decker at 11 Walnut Street Waterbury’s North End. Diane McDermott, Nee Marino, had grown up there when the neighborhood was still respectably working class and largely Italian but by the early 1960s, it was in the midst of a transition into a rundown, crowded black area. 


The apartment, her mother’s apartment actually, was near the corner of Cherry Street, a rough part of town in a very rough city. In those days, lower Cherry Street was renowned for its street hookers and Walnut Street had its share of illegal after hour bars and a few brothels on the far upper end of the street.

Diane lived there with her son, Dylan, the future television and film star, then 5 years old, an infant daughter and her boyfriend John Sponza. Diane had been separated from her husband, Rich McDermott for a while, they just teens when Dylan was born.



It was a Thursday night. Sponza, who was known to the cops, said Diane had shot herself as a suicide and then amended the story to say that he was cleaning his pistol while Diane peeled potatoes over the sink in the kitchen. He said that she entered the room where Sponza was sitting, she was carrying the peeling knife. She picked up the weapon, for no known reason, and it accidentally fired a few seconds later. The paring knife was found beside her body.

The murder scene 

Remarkably, not only did the cops buy Sponza’s version of what happened, they didn’t bother to test his hands for gunpowder residue. Sponza told the cops on the scene that he and Diane never argued. Yet virtually everyone who knew the couple said they argued constantly and that the arguments were “very violent and very vicious”

On at least one occasion, Sponza choked Diane when she didn't move fast enough to get his cigarettes. Friends recalled that Sponza terrorized her son Dylan, struck him and once pushed a gun in the boy’s face. On the night Diane died, Sponza ordered 5-year-old Dylan out into the cold night while he and Diane argued.

John Sponza

Sponza’s second wife, Naomi, said that Sponza beat her and once put her in a chair, cut her and threatened to kill her.   “John had also hit me several times with a vacuum cleaner pipe.” She said “This was after John was involved in a car accident. John trusted me but would tell me if there came a day he didn’t trust me, he would kill me. The way I knew John though, I knew he didn’t shoot her (McDermott) by accident. I knew he killed her.”
No one who knew her believed that Diane killed herself, accidentally or otherwise and virtually everyone who knew the situation believed that Sonza had killed her. The problem was no one could prove it

The slight (just under five foot seven) tattoo covered Sponza was a typical street punk, wise-guy-wanna-be.  In 1962, he was sent to Cheshire reformatory for breaking and entering and theft of a motor vehicle. Two years later, was jailed for a year in Hartford on a charge of breach of peace. In 1967, he was convicted breaking and entering and larceny and served several months in the can. A heroin addict, other reports say he pistol-whipped a victim in a medical clinic and allegedly shot another man in the face. The few friends that he had, acquaintances would be a better word, he met in jail. “He liked to project the image of a gangster,” one of them said.

In December of 1964, Sponza and two other men tracked down a man named James Little to a bar in Waterbury and bear him severely him because he had testified that he had sold a stolen television set to former Waterbury deputy sheriff, Francis Palladino, who once ran as the Republican candidate for high sheriff of New Haven County. Waterbury police reported that Sponza and the other two hoods, Paul Fontaine and Ronald Colasanto were “near and dear friends of Palladino” according to Waterbury Chief Inspector of Detectives Byrnes.
That incident, selling stolen goods to law enforcement officers, happened in 1964. Four years later, a crime ring developed in Waterbury that sold thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise to police officers.

Chief Inspector of Detectives Henry Byrnes, a gruff, political cop, decided to believe the beat reports about the murder of Diane McDermott. He officially determined that the death accidental and the Coroner’s office, relying on information from the police, agreed. In effect, the cops had inadvertently covered up Sponza's involvement in the crime. But why?

Byrnes

Two years after Diane was killed, Byrnes and Deputy Superintendent Paul Moynahan were suspended from duty after being convicted on breach of peace charges and public intoxication. The two men, both armed, locked up after banging on the front door of States Attorney Francis McDonald on Christian Road in Middlebury. Twelve state police cars answered McDonald’s frantic phone calls.

The reason Byrnes and Moynahan were there was that they had learned that McDonald was investigation the Waterbury Police Department involvement in accepting stolen goods in lieu of arrest, gambling, and loan sharking. Reports of the investigation had leaked out and rumor had it that the State Police were about to arrest 14 members of the Waterbury police force. Several hours before showing up at McDonald’s house, the two cops had gone to the home of the State Policeman who had been assigned to investigate the case.

In the end Retired Waterbury Chief Justice P. O'Sullivan, acting as the grand juror linked the scandal to the Mafia. He accused the Watertown chief of police and assistant prosecutor in Waterbury Circuit Court of destroying records in the case. Ninety-four persons gave testimony and 17 others refused to testify

Of the 33 arrests made in the case, mostly cops or city hall connected characters, twenty were convicted. Six persons were found innocent, one case was not prosecuted, 4 cases were dismissed by the Superior Court, one was declared a mistrial and one never went before the court because the defendant skipped town.

Moynahan and his son, Attorney and politician Timothy Moynahan were arrested for receiving stolen goods. The grand jury determined that the senior Moynahan "used his position as a police officer to protect the operations of Charles Vemale." 

Vemale was a mob associate who dealt in hijacked goods a pornography distribution. Timothy Moynahan, the son, knowingly received a stolen $200 air conditioner which was put in his law office. He was acquitted on perjury charges arising from the grand jury probe. The court also dropped the larceny charge because of a mistrial and subsequent "double jeopardy" ruling. Paul Moynahan was found guilty of larceny and was sentenced to one year and one day in jail. It is not known how long he actually served. Welcome to Waterbury.
Chief Inspector of Detectives Byrnes missed a bullet in the dragnet and he was given special treatment in the handling of the McDonald harassment case and was eventually given a suspended jail term. By the end of the year, he was gone from the force. The official story was that he was suffering from heart problems and was allowed to retire from the force with full benefits. 

If John Sponza was involved in the scandal, and it’s very, very possible that he was, his name was never mentioned in the investigation which focused almost exclusively on the involvement of the police officers and not the hoods who were involved. If Sponza was involved in handing over stolen goods to the police, it would go a great way in explaining why the investigators in the case decided that Diane McDermott killed herself.

On March 7, 1970, John Lonza was arrested for possession of heroin and slammed away to Somers maximum security prison 3 to 5 but only served 11 months on a modified sentence. He was discharged on parole in February of 1971. Sponza told his parole officer that he was buying wholesale merchandise in New York City and selling it at market rates in Connecticut and Massachusetts. There is no evidence that was true. He also listed his place of work as the Trailer Truck Salvage Company, a questionable firm that was actually in business or at least had an office, in Hartford, but no one there had ever heard of him and denied he ever worked there.

Sponza was under court order to attend a methadone clinic in Hartford. “He came in every day for nine months to pick up his medication.” A counselor recalled “He was a loner, he never came in with anyone. He was a little cocky and always felt uncomfortable and threatened.” Sponza was eventually tossed out of the methadone program because he failed to attend required sobriety meetings

In October of 1971, he married Naomi Balkan in a civil ceremony in Tolland.

On August 6, 1971, Lata, his girlfriend Linda Ziomek and John Sponza, robbed the American Savings and Loan Co. on Rt. 64 in Middlebury of $18,485. Sponza and Lata rushed into the bank wearing masks and black gloves while Ziomek waited in the getaway car. Immediately after the Middlebury robbery, Sonza, Lata, Ziomek and Stuart “Birdsey” Smith, of Meriden robbed another bank in Meriden of $68,000 on December 13, 1971.

 In early June of 1972, Sponza crashed his Cadillac on Interstate 84 and rented a car, a Dodge Charger, from National Car Rental in Hartford on June 5 and then vanished. After a week, the car rental employee in Hartford who loaned the Sponza car registered the car as missing when Sponza failed to return it on time.

Sponza had rented the car because he needed it to kill Peter Ladas and anyone else who could finger him for the string of bank robberies they had been involved in and then there was the matter of the stolen loot. Lonza wanted it all for himself.

Sponza called Ladas, William “Billy” McNellis and Alexander “Skinny” Dziadowicz and told them it was time to split the contents of two stolen safes. With James Lata driving, Sponza took the group to an isolated area in eastern Connecticut, the rural end of the state. Sponza was sitting in the front passenger’s seat. The car was parked. He turned suddenly, pistols in both hands, and opened fire on the three men Skinny Dziadowicz got hit, McNellis and Ladas, who was grazed in the head by a bullet, jumped from the car. Dziadowicz was never found.

Lata and the others weren’t going to let Sponza live after that. Linda Ziomek, Lata’s girlfriend, lured Sponza to Waltham, Massachusetts.  She told him she needed his help casing some banks in the area. Several days before Sponza disappeared, witnesses said they saw James Lata at a Waltham motel.

On June 16, 1972, a Friday, Sonza’s body was found in the trunk of a car that had been left in a shopping plaza in Waltham Massachusetts. He had been tossed into the trunk and then shot through the back three times. The gunmen were more likely Lata and McNellis.
By the time they found the body, Sponza’s wife said he had been missing about a week. The body was decomposing for about a week. The foul odor is what led the local police to the scene. Based on the condition of the body, police estimated that Sonza had been murdered in or about June 10th. His wife identified him, by phone, by his rings and body tattoos. He died with $1.12 in his pocket, a fake diamond ring on his finger. Sponza is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Waterbury where Diane McDermott is also buried.


The Waterbury police reopened the case in 2011 but the investigation was weakened by the fact that the official files and pictures from the time were lost or had disappeared, and the main suspect, John Sponza, was dead. But the investigation did go on and the correct picture of what happened that day became very clear, very fast. John Sponza had murdered the young Mrs. McDermott. In fact, there is a possibility, although not much of a possibility, that some members of the Waterbury police had purposefully covered up Sponza’s guilt. The final determination in the reopened case, based on what information was available, was that Diane McDermott was probably murdered by John Sponza