Before he jumped to his death from a Tracy Inn balcony last week, Roger Strunk stayed at a men’s shelter in Stockton and in cheap hotels over the past few months, according to his closest friend, Jim Thompson.
When he could afford it, Strunk occasionally stayed at the Tracy Inn.
Sixty-eight-year-old Strunk, a popular singer and actor in the 1960s, lived the life of a multi-millionaire while he was married to a Filipino movie icon.
"He lost everything," said Margaret Spann, a friend of Strunk from Good Shepherd Community Church, where he worshiped and videotaped services each week. "He went from having everything you’d possibly want to having literally nothing."
Less than 24 hours before Strunk’s body was found, he’d called Thompson from the Tracy Inn, where he’d checked in July 8. Strunk told Thompson he’d like to see him and asked him to stop by the hotel.
It’s important, he told him.
But Thompson was spending the week as a youth camp counselor in the mountains and told Strunk he couldn’t see him for a few days. He said Strunk gave him no indication that he might commit suicide.
"He just said goodbye and hung up," Thompson said.
Thompson is one of few people who had heard from or seen Strunk since January, when he’d moved to Redding to get married. The wedding was annulled several weeks afterward.
Strunk worked as a part-time city employee and regularly recorded City Council meetings for the city’s Channel 26 until he resigned in January. His co-workers, Bob Miller and Dave Hardesty, had tried to give him his old job back, but they couldn’t find him.
Thompson said Strunk couldn’t work for the city after his car broke down.
Tracy police believe Strunk stepped onto a chair to climb out the window. He was on heavy medication for diabetes and drank fairly regularly, according to friends.
Thompson let Strunk live in a trailer on his property in Tracy for a week until he could afford to rent a room in Stockton.
He stayed in cheap motels when he had enough money for the night, and after his money ran out a few months ago, he’d stayed at a men’s shelter in Stockton. Thompson said he occasionally took Strunk money and his mail from a post office box in Stockton. He held on to Strunk’s debit card to help him save for an apartment.
Strunk was known as Rod Lauren during his years in the limelight. He sang in clubs, appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1960 and acted in 14 movies from 1962 to 1969.
In 1979, he moved to the Philippines where he was married to Nida Blanca, a well-loved movie actress and television star in that country.
Blanca was murdered in 2001, and the man arrested for the crime said Strunk had hired him to kill her. Strunk returned to the U.S. to take care of his ailing mother, and attempts to have him extradited failed after his accuser recanted his testimony. Philippine authorities had no other evidence to link him to the crime.
Apparently, Strunk relied on his wife’s income for financial support.
Thompson said Strunk talked very little about his wife’s murder but did tell him he avoided a Catholic church near the shelter in Stockton after a group of Filipinos flashed him angry looks a couple months ago.
"He was scared," Thompson said. "He wouldn’t go back to that church."
A memorial service is tentatively planned for July 29 at Good Shepherd Community Church, 306 W. Eaton Ave.