Dan Rattiner's Stories

He’s Buried Where? Jack Dempsey, Gary Cooper and Others Interred Here

Hamptons cemeteries have some surprising celebrity graves.

A whole lot of famous folks live in Southampton. And as you might expect, as a result, a whole lot of famous folks get buried in this part of the Hamptons. Furthermore, they tend to congregate in two particular cemeteries—Sacred Heart Cemetery in Southampton and Southampton Cemetery, which abuts Sacred Heart.

Both cemeteries are located on County Road 39, almost directly across the road from the office of Dan’s Papers. A stone’s throw, if you will.

Those who got famous and died are from all walks of life here. Gary Cooper, the actor, is buried in Sacred Heart. You might ask, what is Gary Cooper doing in the Hamptons, and it’s a fair question. He was, after all, a creature of Hollywood, and you would think he would find his resting place there.

Gary Cooper's grave
Gary Cooper’s grave, Courtesy Pat Intrieri

Well, indeed, he did. After appearing or starring in 75 major motion pictures, receiving two Academy Awards, providing celebrated roles in Sergeant York in 1941, High Noon in 1952 and For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1953, he was laid to rest after a tragic battle with cancer at the tender young age of 60.

Widely mourned, he was initially buried in California, but when his burial site soon became a tourist attraction and almost a shrine for those who loved him on the silver screen, his wife, Veronica, who in her widowhood became a summer resident of Southampton, had him disinterred and re-buried at Sacred Heart so she and their daughter could be near to him. Indeed, Veronica lies next to the husband she had for nearly 30 years.

JACK DEMPSEY

Jack Dempsey is buried at Sacred Heart. He was the famous heavyweight boxer who knocked out Jack Willard in 1919 and held the championship until 1926, when he got beat by Gene Tunney.

How he was in defeat after the fight was legendary. At the end, he could no longer see. “Lead me out there,” he told his trainer when he got back to his corner. “I want to shake his hand.”

His wife, back at the hotel at the end of the evening, was appalled by his face. “Ginsberg!” she cried, for that was her pet name for him, “what happened?”

“Honey, I forgot to duck,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey, in his prime, weighed only 187 pounds, which is on the low side for a heavyweight. But, as a product of the western mining camps, he proved again and again he had dynamite in his fists, knocking out challenger after challenger, almost all of whom were bigger and supposedly stronger. When Jack fought for the championship to win it, for example, Willard was nearly 60 pounds heavier, yet Dempsey knocked him down seven times in three minutes.

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Perhaps his most exciting fight—some say it was the greatest boxing match ever—was Dempsey’s fight for his title against Luis Ángel Firpo of Argentina. Firpo was an untamed wildman in the ring and, with his first punch, a right to the jaw, stunned Dempsey and almost put him down. Dempsey survived the next onslaught and then dropped Firpo four times, while Firpo knocked Dempsey right out of the ring once, causing him to scramble back in. Just before the bell ended the first round, Dempsey knocked Firpo down again. In the second round, after two more times on the canvas, Firpo could not get up, and Dempsey won by knockout.

At mid-century, long after he retired, Dempsey was voted the greatest heavyweight champion of all time by the Associated Press.

After his retirement, Jack Dempsey opened a restaurant at the corner of 50th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City. He was admired and loved by everybody and behaved as a true gentleman. The restaurant continued on for 30 years at that location, with Jack greeting people at the door, giving out autographs and posing for pictures, often with his fists up, face to face.

Dempsey lived a full life, enjoyed New York and lived until age 87. He was married four times, the last time to Deanna Piattelli. He and his second wife, singer Hanna Williams, had two daughters, Joan and Barbara. He also adopted Piattelli’s daughter, who took the name of Barbara Dempsey to help her stepfather write his 1977 autobiography.

I don’t know how he came to be buried in Southampton.

Roy Radin's headstone
Roy Radin’s headstone, Courtesy Pat Intrieri

ROY RADIN

Roy Radin is buried at Sacred Heart. He became a millionaire in his mid ’20s, organizing live shows on stages in small towns around the country and then selling advertising in the programs for the performances. The performers were over-the-hill stars from an earlier era—people like Red Buttons and Morey Amsterdam—happy to have a stage to play on.

He hired people who pretended to be tough police officers to make the phone calls to the local merchants, saying the money raised would go to the Police Athletic League and it would be meaningful to buy such an ad. People bought.

In Southampton, he lived in a large oceanfront mansion and was seen around town wearing a cape and carrying a ruby-studded cane. Orgies involving drugs, whips and chains were held at his home, and the local police at the time didn’t bother him with tickets of any kind. Some of them even got invited.

One woman was found semi-conscious, barely dressed and drug addled on a Long Island Rail Road train heading for the city. She didn’t know where she was. She claimed she had passed out at one of his parties and had been raped and beaten. With this information, even though Radin was eventually acquitted, Radin’s parties were indeed shut.

Radin, with a barrel of money in the bank, then decided to go to Hollywood and invest in a film being made. He chose The Cotton Club, and it was a good choice except for two things. One was it flopped at the box office. The other was his attempts to be a co-producer got him killed. A woman who was involved in financing the movie and also a onetime drug dealer felt she was being cut out of a producing role and hired two men to kill him and get rid of the body. This was done. Radin was 33. His body was later found by some hikers, and afterwards the killers were convicted.

Patricia Kennedy Lawford headstone
Patricia Kennedy Lawford headstone, Courtesy Pat Intrieri

PATRICIA KENNEDY LAWFORD

Patricia Kennedy was one of the sisters of Jack, Edward and Bobby Kennedy. Her mother thought her the most beautiful, aristocratic and sophisticated of the sisters, who included Jean and Eunice, and it appears she was. Raised in wealthy circumstances by Rose and Joe Kennedy in Manhattan, Palm Beach and Newport, she rode horses, went sailing, joined society and, as an adult, became philanthropic and part of New York City society.

In 1954, she married the actor Peter Lawford in a Manhattan ceremony that drew more than 3,000 well-wishers to the front steps of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church. Although Lawford became a Catholic to marry Patricia, he was always considered an outsider by much of the clan, having been born and raised an Episcopalian.

Patricia was able to bring President Kennedy into the world of show business, where he became friends with Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine and Sammy Davis Jr. They also were close friends with Marilyn Monroe and Tennessee Williams.

The marriage lasted 11 years, during which time the Lawfords made their home in California. After the divorce, Patricia moved with her children back to Manhattan, and from there became part of the social set in Southampton society in the summertime.

She died in Manhattan at the age of 82 and is resting at the Sacred Heart Cemetery across from Dan’s Papers.

Others buried at Sacred Heart include fashion editor Catherine Murray Di Montezemolo, actress Veronica Cooper (wife of Gary Cooper), fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, “Big Edie” Beale of Grey Gardens fame, “Black” Jack Bouvier, father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, and ABC Sports and News Chief Roone Arledge.

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