Carol Wayne: The Mysterious Death Of A Teenage Skating Sensation

So far in Spooktober on Skate Guard, we've had a skating bat and a murder mystery written by a figure skater. Our next chilling story proves that not all stories begin and end with figure skating. In the case of Carol Wayne, her earlier accolades as a talented young skater were eclipsed by her tragic and mysterious death in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico in 1985. As a teenager, Wayne and her sister Nina were plucked from a Chicago rink and offered contracts to tour with the Ice Capades. They were billed as The Wayne Sisters and performed a shadow skating act. 

John Austin's book "More Of Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries" shared in Carol's own words the story of her time as a figure skater: "During a polio scare many years before her death, Mrs. Wayne thought not polio germs could live in an ice rink. 'Such logic,' laughed Carol, resulted in years of ice skating lessons. 'Our grandmother made all of our clothes. We were never in fashion. We were Chinese one year, Pilgrims another, Japanese the following year. We did shadow skating, and because we were tall and had long legs and stupid ponytails, we were offered a professional contract when we were 15 and 16. Yes... neither of us finished high school. Yes, zip education!' For three years the 'nerd' Wayne sisters - Carol's expression for them - did their 42-city tour with the Ice Capades - that is, until Carol's big accident. Exhibiting a five-inch scar on her knee, Carol explained, 'Sometimes, people would unconsciously, or perhaps on purpose, throw pennies that would stick on the ice and make you fall down. It was... a very unforgiving sport. When your blades hit something that wasn't meant to be, you crashed...' Like Carol did. Carol later returned to the Ice Capades to finish the tour, but it was the end of the Wayne Sisters skating career. 'When you train for something so young and become good at it as we did, you never know if that's what you were meant to do in the scheme of things of life, or if it was just because it was someone else's idea. We missed a childhood of growing up, dating, junior and senior proms and all those goodies,' she observed solemnly."

After Carol's skating career ended abruptly with injury, she and her sister got jobs as topless showgirls at Folies Bergère in Las Vegas. They both travelled on their days off to Hollywood and auditioned for television and film roles. Carol found success in the glamorous world of show business, appearing on episodes of "Bewitched", "I Dream Of Jeannie" and "I, Spy". In 1968, she appeared alongside Peter Sellers in the film "The Party". Although she also made many appearances on The Red Skelton show, Wayne's biggest claim to fame was her role as The Matinée Lady on "The Tonight Show" in Johnny Carson's 'Art Fern's Tea Time Movie' comedy sketches. After Carol was replaced by Danuta Wesley, her acting career started to dwindle. Her on screen appearances were limited mostly to game shows like "Hollywood Squares" and a D list 1984 film (which would be her last) called "Heartbreakers". That same year, she filed for bankruptcy and posed in "Playboy" magazine. By 1984, Wayne was on her third marriage, had a son... and by all accounts, a pretty bad drug habit. Apparently Richard Pryor had even offered to pay for Carol's rehab, but like Amy Winehouse, it appears the answer was "no, no, no".

The circumstances surrounding her death are a bit blurry at best. We do know that she was involved with a man named Ed Durston and that they had checked into a rather posh Mexican hotel, despite her bankruptcy. On January 10, 1985, the couple checked out late and missed their flight back to the U.S. When they returned to the hotel after missing their flight, they were told there was no room at the inn and were pointed towards a less upscale hotel that had rooms. Apparently Carol wasn't interested in staying there, the couple got in a fight and Carol stormed off to take a walk on the beach. When she didn't show up in their new hotel room that night, Durston checked out and left her luggage at the airport under the impression that she would probably come by to claim it. She never did. Her fully clothed and bloated body was found in the shallow Santiago Bay three days later by a fisherman. She couldn't swim and apparently didn't like to go near the water, so the fact her body was found in shallow water was even more suspicious. Leaving many to speculate that she had come on the trip to clean up her act, no alcohol or drugs were found in her system when an autopsy was performed. Her death was eventually ruled as accidental but theories as to whether it had really been murder, suicide, an overdose or a simple case of drowning were all out there. Adding fuel to the conspiracy theories, Durston was also present in the apartment of Diane Linkletter (daughter of TV personality Art Linkletter) on the morning of her 1969 apparent suicide. Durston was however never reported to be officially a suspect in either case. U.S. Consular William LaCoque said in 1990: "Carol Wayne's death is unsolved, certainly... But I don't think it was a drowning. A drowning, yes, of course, but there is much more to it than that."  

Although the stories of Carol's fall that ended her skating career parallels in many ways her fall from grace and tragic death, the fact that her story to this day still intrigues so many is a reminder to us all that no matter what twists and turns our lives may take, our stories can and will always be remembered.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":