Michigan Man’s Cold Case Novel Draws Hollywood Attention
UM grad Buddy Moorehouse saw his mom's despondency over the death of her second cousin, and so he investigated it. The result was a high selling true crime novel that may wind up on Netflix.
Moorehouse remembers being a student at Michigan when Jenny Maxwell was gunned down outside a LA condo back in 1981. He also remembers talk of it being some kind of mob hit.
The police, however, had a different story, saying it was a botched robbery, and letting the case go cold.
Moorehouse investigated the death and the resulting mix of fact and fiction was the novel 'Death of an Elvis Girl', which climbed into the top 100 of the Amazon book sales charts.
The book was delivered as a novel, because Moorehouse had to piece together random interviews and used fiction to fill in the gaps.
But the resulting book is a mixture of Hollywood '60s stardom, and the toll it took on young women.
He began the quest by talking to his mom, Vera Cunningham, a Howell native who was Jenny's cousin. They had grown up together, with Vera taking trips to care for Jenny, who was six years younger than her.
”My mom and Jenny were really close when they were kids," Moorehouse told the Detroit Free Press. "My mom was six years older than Jenny was, and in the summers, she would take the train from Chicago out to New York and babysit her for a few weeks. They just adored each other,” he says.
Jenny moved to Hollywood at the tender age of 16, and soon found roles on '60s classic TV shows like "Twilight Zone" and "Route 66". She later found fame as an "Elvis girl" in the movie "Blue Hawaii", and was featured on publicity posters for the movie.
This is her in a scene in the movie, getting spanked by Elvis. Yes, spanked. Keep in mind, this is 1961, and I guess this was okay then.
But life off the big screen wasn't kind to Jenny, and according to the book's description on Amazon:
...her personal life was a mess. She married film director Paul Rapp when she was just seventeen and became a mom at nineteen. Her marriage and her motherhood fell apart thanks to a lifestyle of Hollywood parties, drugs and sex. In an effort to win back her son, she quit Hollywood altogether in 1968 and married Ervin "Tip" Roeder, a high-powered and mobbed-up Los Angeles divorce attorney who was twenty years her senior. Their marriage was a rocky one, and by the time 1981 came around, they were separated and heading for divorce. Tip Roeder was at Jenny's side that fateful day in Beverly Hills, as they were both gunned down by the assassin outside her condo.
In an interview this week, Moorehouse told the Detroit Free Press that he found out the initial police officers on the scene had doubts about the robbery motive, but were taken off the case.
The Free Press also reports that Moorehouse has received attention from some LA producers, hoping to capitalize on the True Crime craze which took off during the pandemic. "Death of an Elvis Girl" could wind up on Netflix, or some other streaming platforms before too long.
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