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Death Valley Superstar

about Mark Frechette

Best known for his attempted bank robbery and also the lead role in the 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, Mark Frechette is another damn star dead at the age of 27. He spent his last days confined in the minimum security state prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts, after attempted to rob the New England Merchant’s Bank with two members of his commune in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the trio, Christopher “Herc” Thein, was killed by police while Mark and Sheldon T. Bernhard were arrested and pleaded guilty. Mark was sentenced to a term of six to fifteen years in prison.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 4, 1947, Mark was selected from among thousands during the casting process for Zabriskie Point that lasted nearly a year. He was discovered in Boston by Sally Dennison, Antonioni’s assistant and casting director, while in the middle of a violent shouting match at a Charles Street bus-stop.

After the film, Mark enjoyed a period of considerable publicity — his face gracing the covers of magazines like Look and Rolling Stone. He and his Zabriskie Point co-star Daria Halprin were romantically involved for a time after the film and were often referred to as the first counter-culture couple. He tried to recruit her to join the Fort Hill commune without success.

Mark died in prison on September 27, 1975, during an apparent weightlifting accident, when a 150-pound barbell fell on his neck and he suffocated. Prison officials did not suspect foul play. Friends thought he had been suffering from depression. In 2008, Michael Yaroshevsky produced Death Valley Superstar, a film on Mark.

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