Rod Lauren (birth name Roger Lawrence Strunk) was an American actor and singer. As a singer, he went down to being one of the one-hit wonders via the Billboard Hot 100 charter “If I Had a Girl” in 1960. Lauren performed that song on The Ed Sullivan Show on that same year. His other records “A Wild Imagination” and “Listen My Love” failed to chart. As an actor, he appeared most notably in 1963’s The Crawling Hand. When his show business career long since stalled, since the late 70’s Lauren (going back to his birth name since) had been permanently settling in Manila, Philippines with his wife Nida Blanca, one of the country’s best-known actresses. In 2001 Blanca was murdered and Lauren was accused as one of the suspects. In 2002, he was allowed to fly to the US, where he eventually succeeded resisting extradition to the Philippines to face the trial for the killing, due to lack of evidence. In 2007 Strunk committed suicide by falling himself off a hotel building in California.
Who was Rod Lauren?
Best remembered by his lone hit single “If I Had a Girl” in the early 60s music era, Rod Lauren was born Roger (or Rod) Lawrence Strunk on March 20, 1939 in Fresno, California. He was an actor and singer of the traditional pop vein
Lauren spent most of his adolescence in nearby Tracy where he attended high school and played trombone in the school’s marching band. He began performing at local clubs with his backing group The Buddies after graduating from high school.
Lauren and his short fame via “If I Had a Girl”
In 1959, Lauren signed a record contract with RCA Victor imprint, launching his debut single “If I Had a Girl.” On the Billboard Hot 100, “If I Had a Girl” made to the Top 40 at #31 early the following year. The single’s success also earned him an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show twice. However, his following singles “A Wild Imagination,” “Listen My Love,” “A Searcher for Love” and “I Ain’t Got You” were all failures. He never had another Top 40 hit afterwards so he became one of the “one-hit wonders.”
Lauren’s acting career and personal life
Lauren’s professional life made a more decently successful turn during the 1960’s when he pursued an acting career. In 1962, he starred on some episodes of the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as films such as The Crawling Hand (his most notable screen work) and Once Before I Die. During the latter movie’s shooting he got to travel to the Philippines where met his future wife Nida Blanca, a rising Filipina star during the decade.
Lauren lived permanently in Manila after he married Blanca in 1979, and had reverted to using his own birth name, Rod Strunk. After living quietly for many years, a tragic, brutal incident ended their happy marriage – and Blanca’s life. On November 6, 2001, Blanca’s bloodied and lifeless body was found inside a parking lot in San Juan City. She had died of numerous stab wounds. Lauren, as Rod Strunk, was later held as one of the suspects for his wife’s murder.
In early 2002, the Philippines allowed him to fly to the US and pay a visit to his mother, who was then dying. But after her eventual death, Lauren refused to return to the Philippines, although he maintained his innocence. Because of his refusal to return, the country’s justice department filed murder charges against him. However, Lauren successfully resisted extradition to the Philippines to face the trial for Blanca’s murder.
On July 11, 2007, the 67-year old Lauren killed himself by jumping from the second floor balcony of a hotel in Tracy, California.