Achival photograph courtesy of Poseidon Survivor's Foundation, LLC.
The ill fated SS Poseidon, which sank on New Years Day in 1972, has apparently been found by a team of French underwater explorers. While experts have long known the location of where the SS Poseidon went down, the depth of the ocean floor made salvage operations virtually impossible. The expedition was sponsored by, in part, relatives of many of the victims, including the late Shelly Winters, who perished from an apparent heart attack attempting to escape the doomed liner. Her husband, actor Jack Albertson, was one of only a handful of survivors.
The SS Poseidon represented a bygone era when �cruising� was considered a sign of wealth and prominence. The USS Poseidon was packed with A-list celebrities, such as Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons, who enjoyed the relative isolation the open seas provided. is in stark contrast to the trillion dollar cruise industry today, in which cruise liners are infested with white-trash types making pigs of themselves at all-you-can-eat buffets.
The SS Poseidon took many secrets in her descent of 20,000 feet to the ocean floor. Many who have seen the two-hour documentary filmed on the vessel remain troubled today as to what exactly happened during horrific tragedy. The most often heard rumor was that Gene Hackman actually died when cameras caught him plunging into oily water after turning a greasy wheel.
Hackman, in an interview, with Variety magazine a few months after the incident, said �The water was lukewarm, and actually kind of pleasant. Perhaps people thought I died because I purposely stayed under water for a minute or so after taking my plunge as I was anxious to see what the others really thought of me. By the time I resurfaced Borgnine was banging like a madman on the hull after hearing the helicopter outside the ship.�
Hackman and Borgnine�s relationship could be described as contentious, at best, during the ship�s voyage and things really came to a head once the ship flipped over. And apparently time does not heal all wounds, as even 37 years later, Borgnine and Hackman have not spoken, and probably never will.
Many also have questioned why the celebrities were pretending to be other people during the voyage. Hackman was aware the Godfather and Exorcist movies were right around the corner, and realized juicy parts would be aplenty for Catholic priests, so he was anxious to experiment with the role and see if he could fool the other passengers. Borgnine, on the other hand, pretended to be a New York cop married to an ex-prostitute �just for the fun of it� as he later told the London Globe.
Many also falsely believe that ship captain Leslie Nielson died on the vessel, as last seen in the documentary water was overtaking the bridge and he appeared to be a goner. In fact, while Nielsen was thrown from the vessel, he did manage to cling to debris and floated to an uncharted island, where he was rescued a week later. Nielsen parlayed his 15 minutes of fame into a popular movie career, starring in Airplane and several Naked Gun movies. Nielson recently returned to his �mistress,� the sea, and currently captains the Carnival Sensation. Nielson admits that he is still haunted by the SS Poseidon and steadfastly refuses to make Trans-Atlantic crossings, instead remaining in the calmer confines of the Caribbean Sea.
The late Roddy McDowell also caused much confusion, as it appeared that McDowell died on board that fateful evening, only to resurface a year later playing �Galen� on the Planet of the Apes TV series. A careful examination of the credits, however, reveals that Galen was actually played by Roddy McDowell, Jr., son of the late actor who perished on the SS Poseidon.
McDowell, Jr. remains bitter to day about his fathers death, and points most of the blame at fellow actor Jack Albertson. �He should have never let his wife (actress Shelly Winters) climb that Christmas tree in the first place. They lost precious time waiting for her to make it to the top. And did you notice how long Albertson spent talking with his wife about that pendent he was supposed to give to their grandson in Israel? I mean you�ve got to be kidding me. They ship was floating upside down in the middle of the Atlantic and yet he�s got all the time in the world to gab about some pendent. �
Albertson, however, would get the last laugh in his feud with the younger McDowell. Albertson�s Chico and the Man absolutely crushed Planet of the Apes in the Friday night Nielsen�s, sending the younger McDowell into obscurity, giving him nothing but time to stew over what happened on that fateful evening aboard the SS Poseidon.