1999 INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST TRANSCRIPT — TAPE #531, SIDE #1


Q: Mark Russell Bell
V: Veterans Administration recorded voices
R: Veterans Administration telephone representative
B: Bob Routh, Veterans Administration telephone representative
E: Beverly Tudor, Veteran’s Services telephone receptionist
J: John, Veteran’s Services telephone representative

Q: So it’s another Friday, another laundry day. There was a traffic accident right outside the laundromat where I go. A man was lying on the grass after an accident. And, of course, this is something that I’ve been worried about since last night because my horoscope said that I was going to have a big decision that night and I didn’t think very much of it. My father called and wanted me to come by. And then after I finished the call, I realized this really is a bad situation and I’ve kind of been ignoring it. Will Mighael try to kill me when I go to visit father to help him finish his V.A. report? I mean I don’t think that he’s doing anything wrong. Maybe fudging a little bit of the receipts but nothing major. I mean I wouldn’t have thought anything at all was wrong but he seems so paranoid like (or “LIKE”) his “phone is being tapped” and like anyone would even care. So, anyway, I was thinking about whether or not I should tape the call and I decided that probably this would be a good investigative opportunity. I was thinking should I stop by? Well if I hear “YES” as I’m passing by this pharmacy, I’ll stop by. And it was a Madonna song “Crazy For You.” At the very end of the song—and, in fact, I mistimed it so I wasn’t even going to hear the announcer—but guess what? In her song she ad-libs, “YEAH.” So I went to the store and they only had the six-pack. So I must say I did feel right buying the six-pack of microcassettes. In fact, a dove flew in front of my car. The songs have all been good. I haven’t seen any “psycho bitch from hell” license plates recently. So I’m about to call and try to figure out how I can help my father. He spends all of his time with his VA report and that’s really the basis of our relationship. Money. His pension benefits being resumed and all that. So I think I’m going to give them a little call.

( . . . )

Q: How odd. I was looking up the number in my new Santa Monica GTE phone book that I just received and I found the number but right in front of it there’s a new number for “Vaccine Injury Compensation” — “Information And Claims Hotline” / “No Charge To Calling Party.” How odd. Also, under Veterans Affairs they have a “Gulf War Helpline.” Anyway, it just makes you think. Are these just for P.R. purposes only? I mean what do they do once they get the calls?

( . . . )

V: Welcome to the V.A. regional office. We are located in the Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles at the corner of Wilshire and Sepulveda Boulevards. Your call will be answered in the order it was received. To insure quality service, we may monitor your call.

V: If you know your party’s extension, please press 1 and wait to be prompted. For recorded information about V.A. benefits and services, press 2. For the V.A. home loan program, press 3. For a pending education benefits claim or for information about education benefits, press 4. To report a lost or stolen check or for information on benefit overpayment, press 5. If you have a pending disability compensation or pension claim, press 6. For general information about V.A. benefits and services, press 7. If you have a rotary telephone, please remain on the line and a representative will assist you. To hear these options again — (tone)

V: Please hold during the silence while your call is being transferred.

V: We certainly do appreciate your patience. Please remain on the line.

(music plays)

V: Thank you for waiting. We appreciate your patience. At this time, we are experiencing a heavy volume of phone calls. Please remain on the line and you will be served by the next available representative.

(music plays)

Q: None of these people ever have enough staff to service the calls. Anywhere.

(music plays)

R: V.A. (hard to hear; voice is faint throughout — Flores?) Help you please?

Q: Hello. I was going to be helping my father prepare for some kind of pension meeting and I was just wonder(ing) — I had a few questions. He’s very — he’s almost blind. And I was wondering instead of me helping him, do you ever make anyone else available or —

R: You say he’s blind?

Q: Yeah. I can give you his C number (“IF YOU”) if that will help.

R: What were you — what in particular — what special something were you thinking of . . .

Q: Oh well — well I don’t know. It’s just that in the pa(st) — (“I”) for the past couple of years I’ve helped him with his reports and it’s an unending — it’s a never-ending process. Apparently, his pension benefits were stopped (“SOME” “FOR SO[ME]”) for a while or they were decreased and then he applied to have them increased and there’s going to be some kind of — and he has a deadline coming up in a week or so. And he wanted me to come by and help him finish his report (“ON”) early next week. And I sort of feel uncomfortable helping him all the time because that’s — he’s in a retirement home. And it’s like that’s all — that’s the whole basis of our relationship is doing these V.A. reports. And I’m getting very tired of it. I mean I have one in front of me that he had sent me and it basically said “Remember that you do not need to send us the receipts or checks for your medical expenses each year unless the V.A. asks you to send them to our office.” And that’s all that I do when I go over there. He doesn’t really listen to people. So I was thinking if I could get some more information or know, at least, what I’m doing I could help explain to him or (“LEAST”) understand what I’m doing. Does that make sense?

R: Well yeah . . .

Q: He said he had a deadline coming up.

R: We have a blind operator . . . might be the perfect person . . .

Q: Well I — (“I”) it’s just confusing for me because when I do — (“NO”) when he has sent me some of this correspondence where they tell him that they don’t need receipts or checks and then he goes right ahead and (“SEND SOME”) documents them. There was one time when I had dropped off a package on his behalf over at the Veterans buil(ding) — the Federal Building. And then they said they lost it and he had to redo it or something.

R: Yeah, I’m going to give you the disabled veterans line. (“YEAH”)

Q: It’s not so — yeah. Okay.

(music plays)

B: V.A., Bob Routh.

Q: Oh hi. I was hoping that somebody could help me. They sent me to you because my father has very limited vision and — but really it was a general question that I was asking. I’m basically preparing my father with some paperwork regarding his benefits and I was just wondering what you do in the cases where veterans with limited vision, have very limited ability to prepare their paperwork or what-have-you — I mean if you make any kind of assistance available to them.

B: Where does he live, ma’am?

Q: No, I’m a mister. (“BUT”) He lives in La Habra.

B: La Habra. Is that near Anaheim?

Q: Yes it is.

B: There is a county service office at 1300 South Grand in Santa Ana.

Q: Okay.

B: (If you) took him there, they would fill out the paperwork for him. (“BECAUSE”)

Q: There’s been some confusion in the past. I usually help him with his receipts and what-have-you and — (“I” “YY” “N I”) it’s been a whole long couple of years regarding his pension and I’m really not quite clear where he stands at the moment.

B: Yes ma’am. 1300 South Grand. (“AD[D] YOU”)

Q: What did you say your name was?

B: Bob Routh.

Q: Okay. Fine. (“SO” “DIS” “TH[ERE]”) A phone number there you can give me?

B: (gives number)

Q: Yeah — okay. And that area code is?

B: (gives area code)

Q: Okay, thank you very much, Bob.

B: Okay, ma’am.

Q: Okay, bye.

B: Bye bye.

( . . . )

Q: Of course, I’m always dismayed when I have a ‘the Bobs’ experience. Not that they’re all wicked or anything like that — in fact, many of them are victims. But it’s always a sign of something unfortunate.

( . . . )

E: Good afternoon. Veterans Services.

Q: Yes. I received a call from my father who’s a veteran and I’ve been helping him prepare his various reports for his pension. And he wanted me to come out and help him and I just (“WANT”) wanted to get some more information. He’s blind so I was wondering do you make anyone available to assist blind veterans with their pension paperwork?

E: Certainly.

Q: You do?

E: . . . be glad to help.

Q: Would they call this number here?

E: Sure.

Q: They would. Okay. And what’s your name?

E: My name’s Beverly.

Q: Okay. (“[I’]M”) It’s — I’ve been helping my father for a couple years and it’s been sort of disheartening. (“BECAUSE”) It’s now like our relationship is only about his VA paperwork. (“N”) And doing that and I don’t really even — I’m never really clear exactly what his problems are except I know that he wanted them to increase the amount. (“N”) He always — (“HA[S]’) he keeps all his receipts and everything. (“N”) Even though he sent me — some of the file he sent me said that they had asked him not to send (“HIM”) receipts. So I was wondering even if there’s any way I could be of additional help there.

E: You need to talk to . . . okay, what is you name?

Q: Mark Russell. Yeah — (“HE”) because my father has a deadline coming up in about a week or ten days.

E: . . . and what is your phone number, Mark?

Q: (give number) Could I give you his C number? Would that help?

E: No, we don’t need it . . .

Q: Oh okay.

E: They’ll just either call you and be able to help you on the phone or they’ll ask you to come into the office . . .

Q: Okay, fine.

E: (O)kay?

Q: Thank you, Beverly.

E: Well thanks for calling.

Q: Should I — if my father had any questions, could I give him your name?

E: Well I can’t help them but I’ll transfer them to an officer, you know. (or “YOU KNOW”)

Q: Okay, fine.

E: And hopefully they’ll be able to answer any questions he might have.

Q: And what’s your last name?

E: Tudor

Q: Okay, very good.

E: Okay?

Q: Thank you.

E: You’re welcome.

Q: Okay. Bye-bye.

( . . . )

Q: I gave them the number that clicks in to the answering machine if I don’t pick up.

( . . . )

(“IF I’M”)

Q: — out picking up my mother from the dialysis clinic or whatever. Right now Mickey Rooney is starring in “The Wizard of Oz” in Hollywood. Of course, Mickey was instrumental in my early career in Hollywood. Can you imagine what a long career he’s had? I mean he first started those “Mickey McGuire” shorts — I think in the 1930s? ’40s? Anyway, they were sort of — (“MAYBE”) yeah, they were sort of a rip-off of, I guess, the “Our Gang” comedies. But he’s been doing this a long time and now he’s playing the Wizard of Oz.

( . . . )

Q: And my mother called my attention to an article in TV Guide next week. One of my clients was Johnny Whitaker and there’s an article about him in the June 26—July 2 TV Guide. Of course, he was a very difficult client and he was very understanding because he knew how difficult it was. I don’t think I ever booked him in anything — (“MAYBE”) I think maybe one small role once because someone wasn’t available who a casting director wanted to see so I sent Johnny in. In fact, it was for a black role but what the hey? Anyway, I read the article. It was entitled “Family Man” by Janet Weeks and it says: “Johnny Whitaker, the carefree Jodie on ‘Family Affair’ remains upbeat despite the recent death of his friend Dana Plato, a fellow child star who lost her battle with grown-up demons.” And I was most surprised by the following paragraph. It said:

Following Plato’s death, Whitaker found himself in an all-too-familiar spotlight. In 1976, five years after the end of “Family Affair,” co-star Anissa Jones (‘Buffy’) died from a massive drug overdose. She was eighteen. And in 1997, Brian Keith, who played Uncle Bill on the show, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Malibu, California home. Keith, 75, had been despondent over a long battle with cancer and the suicide of his youngest daughter, Daisy, six weeks earlier.

A few days after Keith died, Whitaker says he was driving on an L.A. freeway when traffic stopped suddenly. “I slammed on the breaks and my car started spinning and I was going to go under a semi-truck,” he says. “I heard a voice that sounded to me like Brian Keith say, ‘Cover. Duck. Roll.'” Whitaker suffered only broken ribs.

Despite his various brushes with Hollywood-related tragedies, Whitaker remains upbeat, even shepherding youngsters, including two of his nephews, into the business. He is developing a “Family Affair” movie and dreams of resuscitating his acting career. “Hollywood and fame is also an addiction. I have so many times in the past weeks thought that I don’t want anything to do with this business. Then a camera comes for an interview and it’s, ‘Oh, I want to do that.’ I’m taken right back to being that kid who loves to perform. That’s me.”

Q: I guess to be fair I should read the beginning of the article too. There’s a lot there if you read in-between the lines. A lot of lessons.

Johnny Whitaker, who once bedeviled Mr. French as the lovable orphan Jodie on “Family Affair” (1966-71), was sleeping in his San Fernando Valley, California home on the morning of Sunday, May 9 when the phone rang. It was longtime friend Paul Petersen (“The Donna Reed Show” 1958-66) and he had bad news. Troubled actress Dana Plato, best-known for playing Kimberly on “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-84) was dead.

It was eerie. A former child star was calling another former child star to report that a third former child star was dead. Two weeks later, Whitaker, 39, his trademark red curls now streaked with gray, is eating lunch in a Los Angeles restaurant frequented by the entertainment industry A-list. He hasn’t been on that list for years. Neither had Plato. They were on a different list: a roster of people who tasted fame too early and lost it too soon.

In the last nine months, Whitaker and Plato had joined forces professionally to help each other build a future. But Plato, 34, apparently found the past too much to overcome. “I thought immediately about her son Tyler, 14; that it was Mother’s Day and that he was waiting for her,” Whitaker says, recalling the painful day he learned that Plato had digested a lethal combination of prescription drugs in her motor home in Moore, Oklahoma.

“There’s nothing you can do when people die but just help the family.” Whitaker was, at the end, Plato’s manager. The two met about four years ago on the set of a Canadian talkshow as panelists on a “Where Are They Now?” segment.

And where had Whitaker been? In 1976, after the end of his Saturday morning show “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” Whitaker quit show business. He went to Sylmar High School in Southern California, graduated in 1977 and spent two years on a Mormon evangelical mission to Portugal.

Returning to the United States, he enrolled at Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1986. From there, he began working as a computer consultant. But he was never far from the entertainment world. A younger sister, Dora Whitaker Grazelli, 32, co-owns Whitaker Entertainment L.A. Kids Management, a talent agency. One of eight children. Whitaker saw much of his earnings as a child actor go to support the family, a decision he deems as fair. A few years ago, she asked her brother to take over the children’s division, citing his experience as a child actor.

One day, Whitaker heard a casting director was looking for Plato for a part in the upcoming George Clooney feature film “Three Kings.” He tracked her down in L.A. and signed her as a client. “She looked beautiful,” Whitaker says, remembering the day last September they met to plot her comeback. “She looked happy and totally full of energy. I said, ‘Dana, you’ve got a lot of pizzaz. We need to put this energy in the right places.'” He suspected she was high.

Despite his flawless manners and boy-next-door appearance, Whitaker, who was divorced in 1988, was no stranger to the drug scene. In fact, he was working with a 12-step program last fall as part of his commitment to sobriety. Although Plato insisted she had been in recovery for a decade. “Later I realized that eight years ago she was arrested for forging prescriptions. Instead of finding out all the things she had done in the past, I thought, being a former kid actor myself, I want to start from today.”

Although Plato didn’t get the part in “Three Kings,” Whitaker says there were other projects coming her way, including a touring production of the off-broadway play “Chaim’s Love Song.” But their plans hit a snag in March when Plato’s former roommate, Jennifer Wijby, told a tabloid that she and Plato were lovers and that Plato was still using drugs. “The story drove Plato underground,” says Whitaker.

She surfaced in Florida, where she told Whitaker she was spending time with friends until the play tour started. But three weeks before she died, she stopped calling. Whitaker says he was unaware that she planned to appear in Howard Stern’s radio show in New York City May 7. “I didn’t set that up and I would not have suggested it,” he says.

The day after she was on Stern’s show, during which several callers mocked her, she overdosed.

Q: Uh-oh, my phone’s ringing.

( . . . )

Q: I went to pick it up. (“BUT”) Somebody hung up before I could pick up the receiver. My machine had gone on. So to finish the article.

An Oklahoma coroner ruled her death a suicide based on the amount of drugs in her system. Whitaker says he thinks it may have been accidental. But friend Paul Petersen who knew Plato longer says, “She chose to check out under circumstances that are completely comprehensible.”

Q: Can you believe they (TV Guide) have Pamela Anderson Lee on the cover? There’s an article inside about Tommy Lee too. These are “celebrities.” These are the role models of our time.

(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I FOUND SOME BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON PLATO AT www.sitcomsonline.com/danabiography.html INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING.)

Plato led quite an interesting life, full of dizzying heights and shattering lows. She came to fame as a child star but found out soon enough that early fame often has its own pitfalls. Best known as Kimberly Drummond, the older sister on TV’s “Diff’rent Strokes,” Dana went through a lot while never quite escaping the scrutiny of the media and fans.

Dana Michele Plato was born in Maywood, California on November 7, 1964. Her birth mother (Linda Strain who was a 16-year-old unwed mother already struggling to support an 18-month-old child) gave her up for adoption as an infant and she was taken in by a Southern California couple (adopted by Dean and Florine ‘Kay’ Plato in June 1965) who soon enough guided her into acting. Dana landed roles on over 100 TV commercials as a child, including appearances for KFC, Arco and Dole bananas. Her questionable luck kicked in early on — Dana was chosen for the lead role in “The Exorcist” but her adoptive mother refused to let her appear in such a film. So while Linda Blair went on to huge stardom, Dana was left with roles in flicks like 1975’s “Beyond the Bermuda Triangle.” (Dana did grab a small part in “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” a film that has been voted one of the worst of all time.)

Dana’s fortunes began to turn when she was spotted by a producer during a brief appearance on TV’s “The Gong Show.” He was casting a new sitcom for NBC which was to become “Diff’rent Strokes,” and Dana landed the part of Kimberly. Her girl-next-door cuteness and seemingly effortless way with comedy won her lots of fans during the show’s prime time run, which lasted from 1978 to 1986. Dana moved in with rock guitarist Lanny Lambert in December 1983. In April 1984, she married Lanny and on July 2nd, 1984 their son Tyler Edward Lambert was born. Dana was fired from Diff’rent Strokes after the 1983-1984 season because of her pregnancy, but she did return for the final season on ABC in 1985-1986. By the time the program was cancelled, Dana had blossomed into a striking young woman, but her acting career could never escape the long shadows cast by her sitcom stardom.

Dana’s mother, Florine ‘Kay’ Plato, who had guided her career died of a blood disease in January of 1988 and her husband reportedly left her the same week. Dana and Lanny would divorce in March of 1990 and Dana was allowed visitation of her son, but her husband won physical custody of Tyler.

Dana drifted in and out of the business over the next few years. She posed for a June 1989 pictorial in Playboy (a 5-page nude layout, the shots were taken in November 1988 in Arizona), showing off the delectable figure that she’d kept hidden for all those years. The nude pictorial did nothing to help revive her career, though, and Dana continued to languish on the fringes of the entertainment industry. She blasted her way back into the headlines in January of 1992, when she was arrested for the armed robbery of a Las Vegas video store (which she used a pellet gun and netted her $164) – she was charged with armed robbery and was later sentenced to five years probation. Her ill-conceived grab for rent money (it was really a cry for help according to many people) sent her to jail for a short stint, but her new notoriety managed to get her work in the “no publicity is bad publicity” world of Hollywood. Dana was helped by Las Vegas singer, Wayne Newton, who posted the $13,000 bail for her. In January of 1992 she was arrested for forging Valium prescriptions. Cited for parole violation, she served 30 days in jail. In 1993, she spent a month in a drug and alcohol rehab center in Las Vegas – one of several times she went into rehab.

Following her jail term, Dana appeared in a string of B-grade features including such sterling gems as 1992’s “Bikini Beach Race” and 1995’s “Compelling Evidence.” She was featured in a video game in 1992 called Night Trap as a scantily clad victim. In 1995, she was in a play called “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” where she received passing grades. Her experiences behind bars also seemed to change more than just her career prospects — Dana came out as a lesbian in a 1998 issue of the Sapphic pride magazine “Girlfriends.” (she had said in more recent interviews that she was not a lesbian and was only experimenting). She turned plenty of heads with her scintillating performance in the 1997 straight-to-video epic “Different Strokes.” It’s a steamy softcore tale of a guy and a girl and another girl, and Dana shows off her curvaceous figure and lust for her fellow femmes in a series of sensual scenes.

Sadly and tragically, she died of a prescription drug overdose on May 8th, 1999.

According to Sgt. Scott Singer of the Moore (Oklahoma) Police Dept., “At this point, we having nothing against Robert Menchaca (her fiancé at the time of her death). But the statute of limitations does not run out on deaths for seven years. So if the police do get evidence that Robert is guilty by criminal negligence or actual participation, we will certainly prosecute.”

(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: TWO ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLES AT THE SITE PROVIDED SOME ADDITIONAL DETAILS AS FOLLOWS.)

MOORE, Okla. (AP – May 9th, 1999) – Actress Dana Plato, who like her fellow “Diff’rent Strokes” child co-stars had seen legal troubles since the show was canceled, has died of a drug overdose.

Ms. Plato, 34, apparently took the painkiller Lortab along with Valium on Saturday while visiting the home of her fiance’s parents.

“The death appears to be an accidental overdose. We don’t suspect suicide,” police Sgt. Scott Singer said Sunday.

Ms. Plato played Kimberly Drummond on the NBC sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1985 (and ABC from 1985-1986).

She was arrested in 1991 for robbing a Las Vegas video store, and was placed on five years’ probation. In 1992 she was given an additional five years’ probation for forging prescriptions for Valium.

“If I hadn’t gotten caught, it could have been the worst thing that happened to me because I could have died of a drug overdose,” she told reporters in 1992.

Ms. Plato and her fiance, Robert Menchaca, had stopped at his parents’ home in Moore for Mother’s Day. Ms. Plato and Menchaca, 28, were en route to Los Angeles after she appeared on the Howard Stern’s radio program in New York as part of an effort to jump-start her career.

She went on the show to deny the stories of a woman who claimed to know Ms. Plato well. The woman had called Stern’s show, saying Ms. Plato was on drugs.

Ms. Plato acknowledged the woman had been a roommate, but said she had been sober for about 10 years. She also said she had her wisdom teeth out about four months ago and had to take pain killers for that.

Singer said Ms. Plato went to take a nap Saturday afternoon. After Menchaca realized that evening that there was a problem, his mother, who’s a nurse, and his brother tried unsuccessfully to revive her with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Singer says toxicology results aren’t expected for about six weeks.

Ms. Plato’s recent career had included mainly low-budget films such as 1992’s ”Bikini Beach Race” and the 1997 film “Different Strokes: A Story of Jack and Jill … and Jill,” a direct-to-video softcore tale about a sexual threesome.

Among her co-stars on “Diff’rent Strokes,” Todd Bridges, who played Willis, has been arrested several times. In 1990, he was acquitted of assault with a deadly weapon in the near fatal shooting of a narcotics dealer in a Los Angeles drug den.

He once testified that he became depressed and turned to drugs after “Diff’rent Strokes” was canceled.

Gary Coleman, who played the lovable Arnold on the show, pleaded no contest in February to disturbing the peace for punching an autograph-seeker in the eye. He was ordered to attend anger management classes, fined and given a suspended jail sentence.

Ms. Plato has a 14-year-old son, Tyler Lambert of Tulsa, from a previous marriage.

‘Diff’rent Strokes’ Actress’s Death Declared Suicide

05/22/1999, The Associated Press – Oklahoma City, OK

Former child actress Dana Plato, who had long battled problems with drugs, committed suicide with an overdose of painkillers and muscle relaxants, the state medical examiner’s office ruled Friday.

Plato, who played Kimberly Drummond on the NBC sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” from 1978 to 1984 (and on ABC from 1985 to 1986), died May 8 while visiting her fiance’s parents in Moore.

“I expected that she overdosed,” fiance Robert Menchaca Jr., said Friday. He had said in a news conference days after the death that he trusted her judgment as she took the prescription drugs he said a Tulsa doctor had prescribed May 3 for back injuries Plato had suffered in a car accident.

Police initially said she died of an accidental drug overdose of Lortab and Valium.

But Dr. Larry E. Balding, the deputy medical examiner, said Friday that laboratory studies showed fatal concentrations of the drugs carisoprodol and hydro-codone/acetaminophen in her blood and tissues and the equivalent of seven tablets of carisoprodol still in her stomach. Carisoprodol is the generic name for the muscle relaxant Soma. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen is the generic formulation for the painkiller Lortab.

Balding said the death was ruled a suicide because of the drug concentrations, her past history of suicidal gestures and the agency’s investigation of the death.

Plato, 34, had had numerous problems since the sitcom’s cancellation. In 1991, she was arrested for robbing a Las Vegas video store and was placed on five years’ probation. A year later, she was given another five years’ probation for forging prescriptions for Valium.

“If I hadn’t gotten caught, it could have been the worst thing that happened to me, because I could have died of a drug overdose,” she said then.

Plato had appeared on Howard Stern’s radio program in New York on May 7 to deny the claims of a former roommate who said Plato was on drugs. Plato said she had been sober for about 10 years, though she had taken painkillers when her wisdom teeth were removed four months ago.

This week, a Cleveland County judge ordered the motor home where Plato died impounded until a hearing can be held to determine who owns the vehicle.

Plato’s 14-year-old son, Tyler Lambert of Tulsa, wants the motor home. Menchaca’s attorney said his client paid for the motor home although it was in her name.

Outside the courthouse, Lambert’s paternal grandmother, Joni Richardson, said she was suspicious of Menchaca’s motives and noted that he had taken photos of Plato in a comatose state.

Menchaca had told police he thought Plato was snoring when he took the photos. Moore police spokesman Sgt. Scott Singer said that actually Plato’s lungs were filling with fluid.

A memorial service was held on Sunday, May 23rd in Los Angeles.

# # #

For a listing of the movies/tv shows she has appeared in, see the Filmography section.

For additional interesting facts on Dana, see the Did you know? section.

The Dana Plato Memorial Site main page is at: http://www.sitcomsonline.com/danaplato.html

(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THE TELEPHONE SOON RANG AGAIN AND I TURNED ON MY TAPE RECORDER AFTER ANSWERING THE PHONE AS THE CALLER IDENTIFIED HIMSELF.)

J: . . . Orange County Veterans Services. I’m returning a call from Mr. Mark Russell.

Q: Oh thank you. What did you say your name was?

J: John.

Q: Okay. Let me just explain. I’ve been helping my father, Paul Russell, and he lives over in the La Habra area. And apparently he has some deadline coming up regarding his benefits. (“HIS”) Pension —

J: He has what coming up again?

Q: A deadline for some meeting regarding his pension benefits.

J: Okay.

Q: And basically I’ve been helping him with all the paperwork. I was a little bit confused because in some of the correspondence he showed me, it said that he did not need to show the receipts or checks or what-have-you. And what I was going to ask my father about was maybe finding somebody else to help him — maybe through the Veterans affairs department or whatever because (“IT SEEMS LIKE”) this is all (“NO”) our relationship has become is just working on this — going over his receipts and what-have you. (“HE”) Very — he’s sort of obsessed (“WI”) with the whole case. Would it help to give you his C number?

J: Well hold on a second. Has he ever sought our services before?

Q: In terms of assistance?

J: Yeah. Our office.

Q: Well he must’ve called for some reason because he — I’ve been with him when he’s made so many different calls.

J: Well let me have his Social Security number. Do you have it?

Q: Let’s see. I just have his C number.

J: How about his last name? Well, see, I’m not the V.A. so I can’t search by C number.

Q: Russell.

J: Last name Russell.

Q: Right.

J: First name?

Q: Paul. I also have a (gives different number) if that would help.

J: No, I’m not the V.A.

Q: Oh okay. Anyway, the individual I spoke to suggested that you call because I was going to maybe recommend him that he find someone else to help him. (“SS” “YOU KNOW”) Since he is blind. So I was hoping to be able to give him that information when I meet with him next. Even though this might be the end of it. That’s what I was trying to determine. Apparently they had reduced his benefits or ended his benefits and then they were going to be resumed or what-have-you. (“HE HA[S]”) He hasn’t really explained it to me.

J: Okay, my system is slow today for some reason. At least, at the moment it is. Let me ask you a question. (“OKAY”) Your father — is he in receipt of compensation or pension?

Q: He has been in the past. I don’t know what his circumstances right now are.

J: And what you’re saying is they reduced his benefit?

Q: Well right. The paperwork that I had been helping him (“WITH” “NO”) regarding his invoices — (“SEE”) for a while apparently they had been overpaying him. That much I was able to understand. And — because he also I guess is getting — he’s retired and he lives in a retirement home. So there was some question about Medicare and the V.A. benefits. So —

J: Well, yeah, I ca(n’t) — you know what I can’t tell looking at my data base here. The only thing I can suggest — you’re going to have to bring that paperwork in and see a claims officer. I can’t do anything for you on the phone. But just, from what I can tell, your father apparently is in receipt of veterans pension based on his wartime service.

Q: Right.

J: Okay? Now that amount is $731 a month, okay? So what may have happened or what usually happens is all sources of income with any assistance from the V.A. cannot exceed $731 a month. So if a veteran is getting, say, $500 a month Social Security, then the V.A. will only pay $731 a month.

Q: I see.

J: Of course, the veteran can always reduce his income by presenting unreimbursed medical expenses. So the veteran could make $500 a month but actually only have, say, $400 a month because they have $100 a month of unreimbursed medical expenses. So then the V.A. would kick in the difference. Now a veteran who’s in need of aid and attendance; for example, a blind person, somebody’s who’s bedridden, (“NO”) usually in a nursing home, they can get an additional allowance for aid and attendance. And that amount, $731, can go up to $1,169, okay? So I mean I don’t know — know the status of your father.

Q: Is there — (or “IS THERE”)

J: A matter of fact, my data base just popped up and it reflects that we don’t have a record here in our office so what I would suggest is somebody gather up all the stuff they have on him, bring it in to our office and then we can kind of take a look at it. We can contact the V.A. to find out what the veteran is in receipt of at the time and try to square it all away.

Q: Okay. And is there any — (“D[O] YOU’VE” “LIKE”) a website on the Internet (“WE”) I could go for more information about — (“SAY”)

J: Well we don’t — no. Again, we’re just a county office and we’re all veterans and what we do is assist veterans, their dependents and widows, processing claims for state and federal benefits.