FREEMAN KING Died June 1, 2002
Actor comedian Freeman King died of a heart attack on his 59th birthday. Mr. King had numerous TV credits. He was a regular on "The Sonny and Cher Show" in the 70s. His movie credits include Chevy Chase's "Fletch," "Under the Rainbow" and "The Buddy Holly Story." Mr. King played the MC at the Apollo theater in the best scene in "The Buddy Holly Story." His famous line in that film was "I'm as clean as a Safeway chitlin!" Other TV credits include "Sanford and Son," "What's Happening!" and "Starsky and Hutch."
HERMAN COHEN Died June 2, 2002
One of the all-time greats of truly bad movies has passed on. Schlock horror movie producer Herman Cohen died of throat cancer. I can't tell you how many hours of guilty enjoyment I received from Mr. Cohen's work. His notorious film titles and low budgets made him a ton of money back in the 50s and 60s. Mr. Cohen struck paydirt with a little film called "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" with a then little known actor named Michael Landon. That film's success spawned numerous other teenage horror films. His follow-up was "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein." Other titles include "Blood of Dracula," "How to Make a Monster" and "The Headless Ghost." Mr. Cohen began making horror films in England in the early 1960s. His "Horrors of the Black Museum" is a b-movie classic. You will never put a pair of binoculars up to your eyes without thinking twice after seeing that film. He produced two horror films with Joan Crawford: "Berserk!" and "Trog." While "Trog" was a cheesy throwaway, "Berserk!" has a fee real shocks in it. Mr. Cohen also produced the British "King Kong" rip-off "Konga" starring the excellent horror actor, Michael Gough. Mr. Cohen wrote seven of his films and made uncredited cameos in seven more.
LEW WASSERMAN Died June 3, 2002
Mr. Wasserman was the last of a dying breed. He was an old-style Hollywood mogul cut from the same cloth as Jack Warner, Louie B. Meyer or Harry Cohen. Wasserman was Ronald Reagan's first agent. He also represented Jimmy Stewart and Janet Leigh among others. He was a strong supporter of former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Wasserman owned MCA and Universal at one time. He brought a little known filmmaker named Stephen Speilberg to the forefront of the industry. His unauthorized biography "The Last Mogul" by Denis McDougal is a great read.
SAM WHIPPLE Died June 3, 2002
41-year-old actor Sam Whipple died of cancer. His credits include "The Doors," "Airheads" and "The Rock." Mr. Whipple played Dr. John Ballard on the TV series "7 Days."
BARBARA PREISKEL Died June 4, 2002
Ms. Preiskel was the second black woman to graduate from Yale's Law School. She was an attorney for the Motion Picture Association of America. Ms. Preiskel was an anti-censorship advocate for the MPAA for nearly 25 years. She aided Jack Valenti in fighting state and local laws that banned (among other things) the depiction of interracial relationships on film.
RADWAN EL-KASHEF Died June 5, 2002
Mr. El-Kashef was one of Egypt's premiere film directors. He died of a stroke at the young age of 50. His films include "The Magician," "Date Wine" and "Violets are Blue." A philosophy student, Mr. El-Kashef's films usually dealt with the search for love and happiness. "Date Wine" was nominated for awards at the Locarno International Film Festival and Namur International Festival of French Speaking Films.
DEE DEE RAMONE (DOUGLAS COLVIN) Died June 5, 2002
Dee Dee Ramone was one of the founding members of the greatest punk band ever, "The Ramones." Dee Dee died of a suspected drug overdose. His wife found a syringe in the kitchen. The Ramones' influence on the British and American Punk Rock movement was immeasurable. Dee Dee wrote some of the band's greatest song including my favorite "Teenage Lobotomy." The band starred as themselves in the 1979 cult film "Rock and Roll High School" with the sexy pixie P.J. Soles. Do these guys really think it is fashionable to kill themselves with drugs?
CARMELO BERNAOLA Died June 5, 2002
Mr. Bernoulli was a composer in Spain. Bernoulli composed the scores to over 80 films. He won the Goya Award for his score to the film "Pasodoble." He provided scores to many horror films in the 60s and 70s.
SIGNE HASSO Died June 7, 2002
Ms. Hasso was an actress in Sweden prior to coming to the United States. She began making movies in Hollywood in the 40s. Her credits include "Heaven Can Wait" (1943), "A Double Life," "Picture Mommy Dead" and "A Reflection of Fear." She also appeared in an over-looked comedy take-off on "The Maltese Falcon" called "The Black Bird." Her character in that film was Dr. Cripen, named after a famous serial killer. The 91-year-old actress was comforted by fellow Swedish actor Peter Stormare ("Windtalkers") at her hospital bed when she died.
JAMES LUISI Died June 7, 2002
Mr. Luisi was a long time character actor. He had a regular role as Lieutenant Chapman on the TV series "The Rockford Files." He played Al Palmini in one of my all time favorite TV movies: "Contract on Cherry Street" with Frank Sinatra. Other credits include the pilot for Joseph Wambaugh's anthology TV series "Police Story," "Cry Rape," "Fade to Black," "Star 80" and the sci-fi gore classic "The Hidden." Mr. Luisi died of cancer.
WILLIAM D'ANGELO Died June 8, 2002
Mr. D'Angelo was a longtime TV producer. He was responsible for the shows "Love American Style," "Room 222," "Run, Joe Run" and "Batman." Mr. D'Angelo died of pancreatic cancer.
JAMES WHEATON Died June 9, 2002
Actor James Wheaton had recurring roles on "Sanford and Son" and "Good Times." Mr. Wheaton appeared in George Lucas’s "THX1138," "Black Belt Jones" and "A Piece of the Action." Mr. Wheaton died of a heart attack.
JAMES ALMANZAR Died June 9, 2002
Mr. Almanzar was an actor appeared in numerous Disney films including "The Black Cauldron," "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again" and "The Devil and Max Devlin." Mr. Almanzar died of cancer.
JOHN GOTTI Died June 10, 2002
Hollywood has been in love with gangsters since the first hoodlum graced the silver screen back in 1912. Some were feared, some were pitied, but audiences have always been drawn to the Bad Guy. Many notorious criminals have sparked the imagination of Hollywood filmmakers. Joseph Bonnano, who passed away this year, was the inspiration for Don Vito Corleone. John Gotti passed away at a Federal Prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri. It is somewhat appropriate that Mr. Gotti would die in the state that was once known as "The Mother of Bandits" because of native sons like Jessie James and Cole Younger. Mr. Gotti was transferred to the hospital from the Federal Maximum Security Prison in Marion, Indiana where he was serving a life sentence. Mr. Gotti did not inspire anyone to create a benevolent, but deadly crime lord such as Don Vito. Mr. Gotti inspired respect, in the way the word is interpreted by the Cosa Nosta. Respect = fear. Mr. Gotti was one of the most feared and powerful Mafia Dons of the last half-century. He killed his way to the top, and ruled with an iron fist. The "Teflon Don" turned out to be vulnerable, and fell before the Justice Department. Mr. Gotti has been the subject of many films. He was portrayed by Armand Assante in "Gotti," Tom Sizemore in "Witness to the Mob," Anthony John Denison in "Getting Gotti," Sonny Marinelli in "Boss of Bosses" and Steven Randazzo in "The Big Heist." I hope he made peace with his maker.
ROBERT HENDERSON Died June 10, 2002
Mr. Henderson was given a technical achievement Oscar in 1942 for his development of lighting equipment used in the movies. He gave up his film career to work on the Manhattan Project. He worked at the Los Alamos until laboratory 1974.
BILL BLASS Died June 12, 2002
Bill Blass was a leader in fashion design for over a half a century. His film credits include "The Wiz" and "Advise and Consent" in which he designed Gene Tierney's wardrobe.
JOSE LUIS DIBILDOS Died June 12, 2002
Mr. Dibildos was a Spanish writer/producer with numerous credits stretching over a 50-year career. He produced the film "The Beehive." Mr. Dibildos received an honorary Goya Award in 2001. Mr. Dibildos died of a heart attack.
ALBERT BAND Died June 14, 2002
Mr. Band wrote, produced and directed many b-movies during his long career. He was the producer of Stuart Gordon's "Robo Jox" and "From Beyond." He produced the soft-core version of "Cinderella" with b-movie sex goddess Rainbeaux (Cheryl) Smith. Other credits include "The Troll" and "Trancers. He began his career as the assistant director on John Huston's classic crime drama "The Asphalt Jungle."
HIDO MUROTA Died June 15, 2002
Mr. Murota was a Japanese actor with nearly 50 feature- film credits. He appeared in films as diverse as Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" and the adult film "Tokyo Deep Throat." He also appeared in "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" with David Bowie. Mr. Murota died of lung cancer. Remind me to stop smoking!
ROBERT LENSKI Died June 19, 2002
Mr. Linski was a twice Emmy nominated TV writer. His credits include the mini-series "Chiefs," "Decoration Day" and "A Death in the Family."
CHANG CHEH Died June 21, 2002
Mr. Cheh was the most prolific martial arts action director to come out of Hong Kong. Mr. Cheh directed over 100 films. He discovered and mentored John Woo. His films "Wu Du" and "Chi Ma" are highly regarded by fans of the genre. Ironically, Mr. Cheh never directed Bruce Lee. Mr. Cheh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hong Kong Film Festival this year.
DOLORES GRAY Died June 26, 2002
Ms. Gray was a singing star in several MGM musicals. Her credits included "It's Always Fair Weather," "Kismet," "The Opposite Sex" and "Designing Women." Ms. Gray also had a long successful career on Broadway. She died of a heart attack.
JOHN ENTWISTLE Died June 27, 2002
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who were the ruling Triumvirate of rock bands to revolutionize popular music in the 1960s. John Entwistle provided a steady beat as the bassist for The Who. While Pete Townsend destroyed his guitars and the late Keith Moon hid dynamite in his drum kit, John Entwistle stood stoically still and kept the backbeat coming. One day before The Who was to kick off a US tour, John Entwistle died of heart failure brought on by a cocaine overdose. The Who appeared in a multitude of rocumentaries. They almost stole the show in the granddaddy of all rock movies: "Monterey Pop." They were overshadowed by the American debut of Jimi Hendrix. They also appeared in "Woodstock." "The Kids Are Alright" is dedicated totally to the career of The Who. The band produced and appeared in the film version of their rock opera "Tommy." Mr. Entwistle was also a co-producer of the mod classic "Quadrophenia." Entwistle rarely stepped to the forefront of the band. One exception was his creepy-crawly novelty song "Boris the Spider." Flashy or not, Mr. Entwistle was a rock solid foundation upon which The Who rocked the world. Mr. Entwistle was 57 years old.
WILLIAM DUFFY Died June 28, 2002
Mr. Duffy wrote the biography of Billie Holliday "Lady Sings the Blues." The book was made into a film starring Diana Ross. Mr. Duffy also helped Edward G. Robinson write his autobiography. Mr. Duffy was the last husband of actress Gloria Swanson.
ROSEMARY CLOONEY Died June 29, 2002
Rosemary Clooney lived life large. She had more than her share of triumphs and tragedies. Known for her deep, earthy singing voice, Ms. Clooney became one of the most popular singers during the big band era. She appeared in several films including "White Christmas." However her biggest success came in the recording industry. She is the mother of actor Miquel Ferrer and the aunt of George Clooney. Sondra Locke portrayed her in a TV movie of her life.
FRANCOIS PILLU Died June 29, 2002
Mr. Pillu was a French actor who appeared in over 100 films. His credits include Costa Gravas's "Z," Frederico Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria" and "Weekend at Dunkirk."