Call to reopen the investigation of the death of Tamás Barta, Hungarian Rock Star

Tamás Barta film poster – Hurry, mom’s waiting at home

Eszter Hajdú is a well-known Hungarian filmmaker with an impressive list of films under her belt.   (Click here to see the list of her films)

Now she wants to reopen the 1982 murder case of Tamás Barta in California and she called numerous US politicians, among them Secretary State Anthony Blinken and California Lieutenant Governor and ex-Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis to support her effort. (Eszter Hajdú’s mother, Judit Hajdú is the legal heir and “stepsister” of Tamás Barta.)

Hajdú and her family live in Portugal for security reasons. They left Budapest in 2013 before the release of her legendary documentary, Judgement in Hungary, about the trial of Hungarian Neo-Nazi serial killing of Roma. The film received 19 international awards, was shown in 11 countries and screened in 40 festivals including at the European Parliament in Brussels and the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.  Yet, the film was ignored Budapest’s far-right government and first premiered on Hungarian television only in 2021, eight years after the world premiere.  It was shown only on the Roma TV channel, Dikh TV.

Now Hajdú is focusing on the Barta case.  Tamás Barta was one of the most recognized and popular Hungarian rock guitarist in the ’70s.  While on tour in 1974 he escaped Communist Hungary and settled in the US.  Later he was shot to death in Los Angeles in 1982 under suspicious circumstances.

Barta (in the front) on a Locomotive GT album cover

Hajdú notes that at the time of Barta’s death „two documents were issued as death certificates. The first one, which was recorded right after the death, didn’t state the cause of death. The second one stated that the cause of death was shooting on the chest, which was the result of a suicide attempt. This document was produced much later, after Barta’s ashes were already spread in the Sierra Mountains. The theory of suicide is contradicted his friend’s statement (allegedly based on the autopsy report) that Barta was shot twice “one bullet passing through his lungs and stuck in the wall and having the other bullet in his shoulder.”

The case was finally closed by LAPD as „suicide.”  Eszter points out that several important factors were neglected and the case should be reopened since there is no statute of limitations in California for any offense which is punishable by death or life in prison, including murder. Barta was a tremendous musical talent, at the time of his death only 33, full of life and had many plans.  His friends thought that suicide was totally uncharacteristic to his nature.

Barta’s plaque in Budapest on Izabella Street

Barta was the only son of Edit Friedman who was Jewish and lost her family in the Holocaust and after his escape to the West he was tried and convicted in absentia receiving an unusually harsh prison sentence from the Communist authorities.   At the time of the murder in 1982, due to Iron Curtain restrictions, his mother was unable to get information or have any legal representation in California. She was not even informed properly about the death of her son.

Hajdú started to shoot a documentary about the life and career of Tamás Barta in Los Angeles in 2016. The film entitled Tamás Barta – Hurry, mom’s waiting at home (Hungarian title Siess, haza vár a mama!) premiered in Budapest in 2020, and was a sensation. Now Hajdú wants to „find out the truth.”  She writes:  „We would like to ask for cooperation and help to get this affair investigated in Los Angeles by the US authorities. We cannot manage this from Europe.”

„Edit Friedman, Tamás Barta’s mother couldn’t find justice because of the Communist dictatorship and now we don’t think we can get justice because of the extreme right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The Hungarian justice system and diplomacy does not work independently and does not function professionally. We do not expect to get any help from our homeland, we are openly and publicly against the extreme-right wing leadership. But we don’t give up the fight to find the truth about Tamás Barta’s death that happened in the USA, Los Angeles, so we definitely need the help of the US authorities.”

After the internet premier of her film several new facts were discovered.  People called providing information about the „Hungarian mafia” in LA.  Most callers ask for anonymity because they are still afraid of reprisals. Hajdú and her small film company cannot finance a full investigation and seeks help from US politicians and the public.

Now she is planning a new documentary entitled, Lost in Los Angeles.  She writes „We are producing our next film called Lost in Los Angeles’that tells the story of an Eastern- European woman trying to find the truth while living outside the US. She is the legal heir of the biggest Hungarian rock guitarist of the ’70s, who was killed in 1982 in Los Angles. She tries to navigate through secrets and lies, the bureaucracy, meeting the characters of the turbulent past and  the investigators and legal actors of the present, after decades of the hidden past.”

Eszter Hajdú

On a personal note, Barta was a Hungarian rock icon and his band the Locomotiv GT was the favorite of our entire generation.  For many years hundreds of articles questioned the circumstances of his death and now Hajdú’s documentary opened up new doubts.  This story is practically unknown in North America and now we call on Hungarian American organizations to support Hajdú’s effort.  The family and Hungarian rock fans deserve to learn what happened to Tamás Barta.


György Lázár


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