Steve Crane, 68, Lana Turner’s Ex, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Steve Crane, the sometime actor and restaurateur who was twice married to Lana Turner, died Wednesday at his home in northern San Diego County.

Crane, who died just one day short of his 69th birthday, was the father of Cheryl Crane, whose fatal stabbing of Lana Turner’s mobster-lover, Johnny Stompanato, made headlines in 1958.

Crane’s former wife, Helen Demaree Crane, who had been caring for him in recent months, said he had been recently hospitalized for treatment of a rare form of anemia, and had returned to her home in Pauma Valley, 20 miles northeast of Escondido, last Saturday.


Born Feb. 7, 1916, in Crawfordsville, Ind., Crane had several parts in motion pictures but was best known as the owner of several Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles restaurants, including the Luau and Scam, and four other Los Angeles-area restaurants, plus restaurants in 14 Sheraton hotels around the country.

The Luau, which had a Polynesian motif, opened in 1952 and was frequented by film celebrities. It closed and was torn down after Crane sold it in 1978. Crane had been in retirement for several years.

Crane’s first wife was Carol Kurtz, and legal problems surrounding their divorce later made it necessary for him to marry Lana Turner twice, first in 1942 and again in 1943.

Their daughter, Cheryl, was a teen-ager living with Miss Turner in the late 1950s when the actress became involved with Johnny Stompanato, a young man with violent tendencies and reputed underworld connections including mobster Mickey Cohen.

Stompanato was stabbed to death at the Turner home, and Cheryl later told a coroner’s jury that she did so in the belief that he was about to harm her mother.

She was never charged or tried.

After his divorce from Miss Turner, Crane was married to French actress Martine Carol, to Helen Demaree Crane and to Leslie Deeb. In addition to Cheryl, he had two other children--his adopted sons, Sean and Stephen Crane IV.