Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day of near misses, tragic ends on 9/11

No one, it seems, was untouched by the Sept. 11 tragedies 10 years ago — and the victims of those terrible attacks included a Hollywood hitmaker, the actress wife of Anthony Perkins, a well-known Boston socialite and a set carpenter for the Backstreet Boys.

Dorchester homey Mark Wahlberg and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane were both booked on the doomed flights out of Boston that morning. But the day before the terror attacks, Wahlberg canceled his reservation to fly from Boston to L.A. and instead took a detour to Canada for the Toronto Film Festival. MacFarlane’s escape was even more random. He drank too much the night of Sept. 10 and missed his flight by 10 minutes. Not so lucky were “Frasier” creator David Angell, actress Berry Berenson, set carpenter Daniel John Lee and socialite Sonia Puopolo.

Angell, the creator and executive producer of Kelsey Grammer’s Emmy-winning sitcom, was returning to the Left Coast from his summer home in Chatham with his wife, Lynn, on Flight 11 out of Boston.

Before moving to L.A. to work in the entertainment industry, Angell had been an engineer in Boston and worked for an insurance firm in Rhode Island. He sold his first script in 1977 and was a writer for the long-running, set-in-Boston sitcom “Cheers.”

Like Angell, Berry Berenson was on her way home to California from her summer place on the Cape onboard Flight 11. The former photographer, who married the “Psycho” star in 1973, spent every summer in Wellfleet at the Cape Cod home that had been left to her and Perkins by his late mother.

Berenson, the sister of actress Marisa Berenson, had a short and forgettable film career, appearing in B-movies including “Cat People,” “Winter Kills” and opposite her husband in the 1978 flick “Remember My Name.” A part-time hostess at a Provincetown restaurant, Berenson was a boyish photographer who shot for Vogue, Life and Newsweek when she married Perkins, a closeted gay, in 1973. According to a biography of Norman Bates’ alter ego, Perkins sought counseling to help him “go straight” before tying the knot with Berenson. They stayed together until his death from AIDS in 1992.

Daniel John Lee might never have been on Flight 11 had A.J. McLean been sober. The Backstreet Boys’ set carpenter was on the doomed flight because BSB was in Boston that September to do a series of makeup shows at the Garden. The shows, originally scheduled for July 2001, had been postponed so McLean could enter rehab. The boy bander’s 28-day hiatus for treatment of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression followed an intervention, organized by his bandmates, at the former Ritz-Carlton hotel in Boston.
Lee, 34, was on his way home to California to be with his wife for the birth of their second child when terrorists commandeered his plane and flew it into the World Trade Center.

Sonia Puopolo, a former ballet dancer from Puerto Rico and one of Boston’s biggest arts boosters, was on her way to the Latin Grammy Awards on Flight 11. The 58-year-old socialite was a major contributor, along with her husband, Dominic, to the Democratic National Committee and counted Bill and Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry as pals.

She was a major donor and fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton during the current secretary of state’s first New York Senate campaign and she hosted legendary film producer Carlo Ponti and his wife, Sophia Loren, when their son Edoardo directed a play at the Majestic Theater.
Emmy Award-winning actor James Woods was interviewed by the FBI following the Sept. 11 attacks because, on a flight from Boston to L.A. a month before the hijacking, he witnessed a “dry run” by the terrorists.

Woods said he shared the first-class cabin with two men, later believed to be two of the 9/11 hijackers, acting suspiciously on the flight. He said they didn’t eat, drink, nod off or even change positions during the long flight. They didn’t speak to anyone and just whispered among themselves and seemed, in the actor’s words, “very uptight.” Woods said he mentioned his suspicions to a flight attendant and ground authorities but they “shrugged it off.”