Wild and Crazy Guys
On August 27, 1980, the body of National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney was discovered at the bottom of a 35-foot cliff in Hawaii. He was 33.
His death was ruled an accident, but it is widely believed he committed suicide.
“Doug probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump,” quipped Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the 1978 hit movie ‘Animal House’ with Kenney.
Kenney’s abandoned car was found near Hanapepe Valley Lookout on the island of Kaua’i, where travel brochures advise, Don’t forget your camera — and don’t go beyond the guardrail?’
His body was jammed between rocks at the bottom of the cliff for three days before it was found.
National Lampoon’s tribute to him was an editorial by Matty Simmons and a cartoon of a sign next to the edge of a cliff with the inscription, ‘Doug Kenney Slipped Here.’
Kenney was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and went to Harvard. He spent most of the 1970s in Manhattan, where he co-founded the Lampoon. When the magazine was sold in 1975 Kenney pocketed $2.8-million and went to Hollywood.
He had smoked grass and used acid and cocaine in Manhattan but in L.A. his drug use spiralled out of control. He kept sugar bowls full of cocaine in his house and in his suite at the Chateau Marmont.
Kenney’s behavior became wildly unpredictable. He got into a fist-fight with a producer, lost six-figure royalty checks and hosted drug-addled pool parties with pals that included John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray.
Drugs were rampant on the set of the 1980 Bill Murray movie ‘Caddyshack’ which Kenney co-wrote with Ramis. Josh Karp, author of the National Lampoon history ‘A Futile and Stupid Gesture,’ believed the film had a cocaine budget. “Somebody told me they brought in more than 80 grams per week.”
The movie came out to bad reviews, even Kenney hated it. He showed up stoned at a press conference where he trashed the film and insulted reporters.
His close friend Chevy Chase figured Kenney needed to get away from Hollywood and took him to the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. When Chevy left to go back to work, Kenney’s girlfriend, actress Kathryn Walker, came to keep him company. But she too had to return to work.
Kenney phoned Chevy Chase and asked him to come back to Hawaii. Chevy was preparing to return when he got a phone call that his friend was missing.
National Lampoon exposed “the idiocy of a generation”
“The goal was to make people in power uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, to the point where they go, ‘This has to be stopped.’”