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Karen Carpenter
    March 2, 1950 - February 4, 1983
When people were turning to hard rock in the 70's, The Carpenter's provided a breath of fresh air with their unique style of music. Their repertoire of love songs are rich with Richard's arrangements and Karen's vocals. Karen was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Later her family moved west to California, while she and her brother were in their teens. It was her brother, Richard who had an ear for music and practiced everyday, while Karen pursued other interests. It wasn't until much later in her teens that Karen followed in her brother's footsteps, as a drummer not a vocalist. Their big break came as they performed and reached the finals of "The Battle of the Bands, " at the Hollywood Bowl. They were signed to a contract with RCA records as "The Richard Carpenter Trio." But nothing came of it. After this initial disappointment Richard and new song writing partner John Bettis landed an unusual residency as a duo playing the “Coke Corner” on Main Street in Disneyland. After five months of faking banjo and standard Americana tunes, they were fired for being too radical. In the meantime, Karen tried out for Kenny Roger's First Edition, but was turned down. Finally, in the Spring of 1969, their demo tape landed on the desk of Herb Albert, and they were instantly signed to a recording contract with A&M Records. Since Karen was only 19 she needed her mother's to sign for her. . All was well as they enjoyed their successes. Four albums went gold, and every one of their concerts were sold out. Karen wanted more. She wanted to get married and settle down. Unfortunately, these things never happened for her. As they toured into the eighties, Karen would tire easily. She lost weight and her appetite diminished; she was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. Her weight dropped below 80 pounds, even at 5 foot 3, this is a very low weight to maintain. Someone had once made a comment that she looked a little chubby, this sent her on an emotional tailspin. She
was now intent to do anything she could to keep her weight down, even if it meant starving herself to death. After six years of battling this disease, Karen looked as though she was on the road to recovery. She gained fifteen pounds and she was proudly telling everyone. Unfortunately the ipecac syrup she took to induce vomiting and the thyroid medicine to increase her heart rate to burn calories, took its toll on her, permanently damaging her heart. On Friday, February 4th Agnes, Karen's mom, woke up on 8:45 to prepare to go to the hairdresser. There was a noise in Karen's room, a rumbling. Agnes called out to Karen but received no response. Upon entering Karen's room, she found Karen lying in the closet, eyes rolled back in her head and no longer breathing. Agnes immediately called for both the paramedics and Karen's brother Richard, who lived around the block. It was too late, Karen was dead from heart failure. According to a coroners report she died of pulmonary edema (heart failure), anorexia, and cachexia (abnormally low birth weight). Now because of the recent release of her autopsy report, there is a big controversy as to where she was really found. Now it is speculated that she was in the kitchen when she died. An odd place for an Anorexic to die. Four days after her death five hundred people filed into the Downey Methodist Church for her funeral. After the services friend Herb Albert, led the pallbearers to Karen's marble crypt. The day before the funeral, Karen's ex-husband, Tom Burris threw his wedding ring into the coffin and disappeared forever. Personally speaking when I heard that Karen Carpenter died I was really sad. I always thought that her music was so beautiful. So when I saw her final resting place I was really amazed on how equally beautiful her tomb is. A black and white photo does not do it justice. Once again, it is located in the cemetery-of-the-stars-but-stay-away, Forest Lawn, Cypress. She is located in"The Ascension Mausoleum," in the ‘Sanctuary of Compassion." As you walk in on your left you will see a stunning religious picture and below that her crypt. She is buried with her mother and father. Next to her name is inscribed "1950-1983 A star on earth - a star in heaven." If I had been her family, I would have went the extra mile and had some of her music piped in for effect.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
4471 Lincoln Avenue
Cypress, California
The Ascension Mausoleum
The Sanctuary of Compassion
Directions: Take I-91 freeway south toward Orange County. Exit on Carmenita and turn right.Drive to Lincoln Avenue and turn right, continuing down about one mile. The cemetery on your right. Go through the gates and continue on the road, you'll see the Ascension Mausoleum on your right. Park anywhere and walk to the entrance on your left. As soon as you enter you'll see the Sanctuary of Compassion and there she is.

News as of 12/28/03: Apparently there was some talk about Karen and her parents being moved to
Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks
Memorial Park and Mortuary
5600 Lindero Canyon Road
Westlake Village, California 91362
818-889-0902
No further information is available on Karen and the cemetery won't comment on whether she is indeed there or not.
If it is true that she has moved there she has joined fellow musician Harry Nilsson who died of heart failure in his sleep in 1994.
Special thanks to "Karen" (not Carpenter, of course) for that information
Photos taken by Joe P.