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James Stacy (Maurice Elias)  Biography

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James Stacy (Dec. 23, 1936-Sep. 8, 2016) was the performing name of Maurice William Elias, an American actor whose career and life were shattered in a motorcycle crash which left him an amputee and took the life of his girlfriend. He returned to acting after his recovery and his final TV appearance was broadcast in 1992. He was arrested and convicted of child molestation in 1995, serving a six year sentence.

 

James Stacy publicity photo

 

One of six siblings, Elias was born in Los Angeles to a Scotch-Irish waitress and a Lebanese immigrant bookmaker, Lois and Louie. In youth Elias "first started loving films" while working as a theater usher. At 19 he was signed to play professional football in Canada. Cut from the team, he briefly moved to New York to try acting before returning to Los Angeles.

 

In 1957, Elias made his film debut in Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando, and his televison debut in Highway Patrol, which starred Broderick Crawford. He appeared as "Fred" in a dozen episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet from 1958-1963.

 

In the 1960s and 1970s he sporadically appeared in TV shows, including Gunsmoke, Hazel, The Donna Reed Show, Perry Mason, Have Gun - Will Travel, and Combat! As an actor, Elias is best remembered as cast member of the 51-episode Western series Lancer on CBS from 1968-1970, playing Johnny Madrid Lancer, a former gunslinger.

 

Elias in a scene from Lancer.

 

Elias was also in several motion pictures from the 1950s through the 1970s, including a minor part in the musical South Pacific.

 

Elias in South Pacific.

 

On September 27, 1973, Elias lost his left arm and leg, and his girlfriend, waitress Claire Cox, was killed while riding a motorcycle when they were struck by a car driving on the wrong side of a narrow winding road in Benedict Canyon. A 1974 celebrity gala, whose attendees included Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, raised $118,000 for his expenses, and in 1976, he won a $1.9 million lawsuit against the owner of the Chopping Block bar in Beverly Hills where the drunk driver had been served. Carter B. Gordon, the uninsured driver, who, tests showed, had drunk 11 or 12 alcoholic drinks in less than 5 hours, was sentenced to a prison term of one to five years for manslaughter and drunk driving. Elias also won a $175 thousand judgement against Los Angeles on his claim that the road on which the accident occurred was poorly maintained.

 

After his recovery, Elias appeared in roles created to accommodate his handicap. His comeback film was the 1975 Kirk Douglas western Posse, in which he was cast as newspaper editor "Harold Hellman", a part Douglas had written for him. In 1977, he starred in the TV movie Just a Little Inconvenience, playing a double-amputee Vietnam veteran, and in Walt Disney Pictures 1983 fantasy film Something Wicked This Way Comes.

 

Elias and Kirk Douglas in promotional photo from Posse.

 

Elias starred in and produced the TV movie, My Kidnapper, My Love, in 1980. His brother, Louie Elias, a bit actor and stuntman, wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Oscar Saul. Louie Elias was also the associate producer.

 

Clip from My Kidnapper, My love

 

Maurice Elias with brother Lou Elias, who died in December 2017

 

Other television appearances included Cagney & Lacey on CBS, Hotel on ABC, and Highway to Heaven on NBC. IN 1990 he had a recurring role was in the cop series Wiseguy, playing "Ed Rogosheske." His last TV appearance was in a 1992 episode of The New WKRP In Cincinnati. After that Elias was reportedly too inebriated to work and retired. Elias was twice nominated for an Emmy Award: for Just a Little Inconvenience (1978: Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series) and the Cagney & Lacey episode "The Gimp," (1986: Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series).

 

Elias married twice, to actress and singer Connie Stevens (1963-1966) and actress Kim Darby (1968-1969), with whom he had a daughter named Heather, born in 1968.

 

Elias with first wife Connie Stevens.

 

Elias with second wife Kim Darby

 

Maurice Elias with daughter Heather Elias in 1986. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

 

Maurice Elias with daughter Heather Elias

 

On November 9, 1995 he pled guilty to a felony charge of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under fourteen years for having fondled the genitals of an 11-year-old-girl. The daughter of a friend and neighbor, she been invited to swim in Elias's Meiners Oaks, California pool on several uneventful occasions, but on March 26, 1995, he bought the girl a pizza in exchange for a massage, during which he molested her. He later protested that his action was not molestation because "I touched her for five seconds."

 

On December 7, 1995, he failed to appear for sentencing in Ventura County Superior Court. He was arrested the next day in a Honolulu, Hawaii, hospital after having fled and attempted suicide by downing a pint of whiskey and leaping off a 1,200-foot (370 m) cliff. He landed on a ledge just 45 feet (14 m) from the top. By the end of December he had waived extradition and was returned to California. On March 5, 1996, he was sentenced to a six-year prison term. The prosecutor in the case said initially that she believed he might have been eligible for probation for the molestation, but his behavior after his arrest, coupled with two arrests in June 1995 for prowling at the homes of other girls, led her to seek a prison sentence. As a result, 150 concurrently served days were added for one prowling charge, while several others were dismissed.

 

Elias' attorney argued that he suffered brain damage from his accident that "affect[ed] his judgment in terms of inappropriate behavior." The judge rejected that assertion, saying to Elias, "I do not think that your celebrity or your injuries or your alcohol problems are mitigating factors." At his sentencing Elias apologized for molesting the girl, telling the court, "I hope it didn't interrupt her innocent mind." He added, "I'm sorry also to her mother for causing her this pain." The mother said that Elias had offered $2,500 for therapy to help her daughter deal with the molestation, but the prosecution claimed this was a bribe to induce the mother and daughter to not cooperate with the investigation. Upon hearing the sentence, Elias reportedly appeared shocked, hung his head, and rocked back and forth while his daughter sobbed and cried, "Oh dad, oh dad." After sentencing, the victim's mother said, "I feel justice has been served. My daughter just wanted this man in jail." In a prison interview with People Weekly, Elias reportedly said his conviction, "makes me look like a goddamn pedophile." He served his sentence at the California Institution for Men, at Chino.

 

Elias died September 8, 2016 in Ventura, California. His fiancĂ©, dentist Antigoni Tsamparlis, told the New York Times that his death was due to anaphylactic shock caused by an antibiotic. His Los Angeles Times obituary said, "While Maurice had struggles in his life and his share of regrets he would always endeavor to be a better person." 

 

References:

"Loud Shot of Booze," The Citizen (Auburn, NY), May 6, 1976. Online (Mar. 27, 2011)

"Fury of the Whirlwind," by William L. Roper, Listen, December 1976. Online (Mar. 27, 2011)

"A Return to Television." Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1990. Online 

"Hearing postponed for actor James Stacy accused of child molestation", by Howard Breuer, Daily News (Los Angeles), Valley edition, April 15, 1995, p. N4.

"Actor pleads guilty to molesting girl", Daily News (Los Angeles), Conejo edition, November 10, 1995, p. TO2.

"Ojai actor arrested in Honolulu after missing hearing", Daily News (Los Angeles), Simi edition, December 9, 1995, p. SV4.

"Ojai Actor James Stacy Arrested in Hawaii", Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1995. Online (March 27, 2011.)

"Extradition waived in molestation case", Daily News (Los Angeles) Valley edition, December 12, 1995, p. N8.

"Extradition returns actor Stacy to jail", Daily News (Los Angeles), Conejo edition, December 28, 1995, p. TO4.

"Actor's Sentencing in Molestation Delayed, Los Angeles Times. January 4, 1996. Online

"Actor receives 6-year term for molesting girl", by Michael Coit, Daily News (Los Angeles), Simi edition, March 6, 1996, p. SV1.

"Actor Stacy Sentenced in Molestation," Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1996. Online

"Trouble: Hitting bottom after fighting back from a grisly accident actor James Stacy, his life in tatters, goes to prison", by Curtis Rist and Jeanne Gordon, People Weekly, May 13, 1996 v45 n19 p89(3).

"The Real Story Behind the NBC Telepic, 'My Kidnapper, My Love'", by Arthur Axelman. Online (date unknown)

"James Stacy, Actor Who Kept Working After a Disabling Crash, Dies at 79", by William Grimes. (Online) Sep. 18, 2016.

"Maurice William (aka: James Stacy) Elias", Los Angeles Times obituaries. OnlineSep. 16-18, 2016. 

"From Celebrated TV Cowboy To Convict: The Tragic Demise Of James Stacy", by Natasha Ishak, allthatsinteresting.com, June 26, 2019.

 

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