GIAN CARLO MENOTTI Died Feb. 1, 2007
Oscar-nominated and Pulizer Prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti died at age 95. Mr. Menotti is best know for his Christmas Opera "Ahmal and the Night Visitors." The opera was written for radio. It has been adapted numerous times around the world for TV and film. Mr. Menotti was nominated for an Emmy for the 1954 adaptation of his popular opera. He received a Best Music Oscar nomination for the 1951 film "The Medium." The film won at Cannes for Best Lyrical Film. He also directed "The Medium." Mr. Menotti won two Pulitzer Prizes for his compositions "The Consul" and "The Saint of Bleeker Street."
GEORGE ROBOTHAM Died Feb. 1, 2007
Veteran actor and stuntman George Robotham died of Alzheimer's Disease at age 85. Mr. Robotham acted or performed stunts on nearly 130 films and TV shows. Mr. Robotham began his career acting and doing stunts in the serials "The Batman" and "Batman and Robin." Mr. Robotham acted in such films as "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers," "Spartacus," "5 Card Stud," "Alien Nation" and "The Goonies." Mr. Robotham's many, many stuntman credits include such films as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "North to Alaska," "The Great Race," "Seconds," "The Poseidon Adventure," "Magnum Force," "Charley Varrick," "The Towering Inferno," "1941," "Mississippi Burning" and "Mars Attacks!" Mr. Robotham was stunt double for Rock Hudson and John Wayne among others. His wife was "You Only Live Twice" Bond girl Karin Dor.
JOE HUNTER Died Feb. 2, 2007
Motown pianist Joe Hunter died at home at age 79. Joe Hunter was one of Berry Gordy's amazing group of musicians hired to back Motown's recording stars during the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Hunter was the first musician hired by Berry Gordy. These back-up musicians became known as "The Funk Brothers." "The Funk Brothers" played on more number one hits that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and Elvis combined! Their story was told in the award-winning documentary film "Standing in the Shadow of Motown." In 2004 Mr. Hunter and the other Funk Brothers were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
BILLY HENDERSON Died Feb. 2, 2007
Singer Billy Henderson died of complications from diabetes at age 67. Mr. Henderson was one of the original members of the group "The Spinners." Their hits include "I'll Be Around," "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" and "Then Came You." The group's music can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as "Stripes," "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling," "Space Balls," "Twins," "Dead Presidents," "Donnie Brasco" and "Beauty Shop." Mr. Henderson and "The Spinners" appeared in the movie "The Fish That Ate Pittsburgh."
GISELLE PASCAL Died Feb. 2, 2007
French actress Giselle Pascal died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 85. Ms. Pascal appeared in nearly 50 films and TV shows during her career. She also enjoyed success on stage. Ms. Pascal was also known for her 10-year-affair with Prince Rainier of Monaco. Their affair ended when he ascended to the throne. Ms. Pascal married actor Raymond Pellegren in 1955. They were still married at the time of her death. Their daughter Pascale Pellegren was born in 1962 and is also an actor. Ms. Pascal's best known film was the biopic "Endless Horizons" in which she played aviatrix Helen Boucher.
MARY MIZELL Died Feb. 2, 2007
Author and actress Mary Mizell died at age 78. Ms. Mixzell wrote about Native American history, artists and causes. She appeared in the films "The Legend of Frank Woods" and "To Find My Son." Ms. Mizell also acted on stage. In 1992 she co-founded the Actor's Workout Inc. in Phoenix Arizona with actors Dan mason and Fred Sugerman. Ms. Mizell was the artistic director at the time of her death.
DONFELD Died Feb. 3, 2007
Multi-Oscar and Emmy nominated costume designer Donfeld died at age 72. Donfeld was nominated four times for the Best Costume Design Oscar. His Oscar nominations came for his work in the films "Days of Wine and Roses," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," "Tom Sawyer" and "Prizzi's Honor." Donfeld received an Emmy nomination for the TV series "Wonder Woman." Donfeld's many credits include "Wild in the Country," the 1962 version of "State Fair," "Viva Las Vegas," "Robin and the 7 Hoods," "The Great Race," "The Cincinnati Kid," "Hombre," "The Chase," "The April Fools," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Lipstick," the original "Fun With Dick and Jane," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "The China Syndrome," "Inchon," "Space Balls" and "Brainstorm."
RUFUS BEST SR. Died Feb. 3, 2007
Construction coordinator Rufus Best Sr. died at age 61. Mr. best worked on such films as "Titanic," "Forrest Gump," "Scarface," "The Patriot," "Takedown" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Mr. Best was a member of I.A.T.S.E. Local #491.
BARBARA MCNAIR Died Feb. 4, 2007
Singer/actress Barbara McNair died of throat cancer at age 72. Ms. McNair began her singing career in cabarets, night clubs and on stage. She appeared on Broadway in 1958. Ms. McNair was one of the first Black women to host her own TV show in the US. As the shame that was segregation began to crumble in America, the entertainment industry began to present Black Americans as real human beings. "The Barbara McNair Show" premiered in 1969 and ran until 1971. Ms. McNair also enjoyed a successful film career. She played Sidney Poitier's wife in "They Call Me. Mr. TIBBS!" and "The Organization." The two films were sequels to the Oscar-winning "In the Heat of the Night." Her other film and TV credits include "A Change of Habit" with Elvis, "I Spy," "Hogan's Heroes," "The Mod Squad," "Mission Impossible," "Vega$," "The Jeffersons" and "The Redd Foxx Show." Ms. McNair performed as a singer on many, many variety TV shows including "Laugh In," "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
GARRY CROUDACE Died Feb. 4, 2007
EI's DVD critic and columnist Wearysloth e-mailed me today with some sad news. His good friend Garry Croudace had passed away at age 59. This is Wearysloth's tribute to his friend.
Garry Croudace died Sunday afternoon following a brief battle with cancer.
Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England and educated in Glasgow, Scotland, Garry soon emulated his idol, John Lennon, learnt guitar, formed a band and set off on a whirlwind tour of Europe in the early 60s. Upon his return to the UK, he joined the British Army to "get some discipline back in his life". He served with distinction until being invalided out following an encounter with an IRA explosive device.
Learning new skills he climbed aboard the computer bandwagon in the early 70s, and taking jobs with Spillers and Croydon Borough Council. He kept in touch with his musical roots and in 1978 formed a Punk Rock Band called The Fruit Eating Bears who have the dubious distinction of being a contestant in The Eurovision Song Contest (think American Idol for bands) that year. Host, Terry Wogan, described them as "Gentle creatures despite their fierce appearance". They came in joint last, but the song, Door in My Face, released on Garry's own record label, was a minor hit and is highly collectible these days. The band toured supporting the likes of The Clash, The Boomtown Rats, The Damned and The Pretenders. A couple of years ago they finally got a CD album released with Mr. Wogan's description as its title!
In the early 80s he moved to Sotheby's Auction House and began the task of placing personal computers into the company which had not seen anything more hi-tech than a photocopier at that point. He created a groundbreaking electronic typesetting system years before Pagemaker became an industry standard.
In 1990 he came to the United States to work for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and from there subsequently arrived at the Florida Supreme Court just in time to help convert aged computer systems into something shinier.
In 2005 he took what might be viewed as an early retirement, got married and moved to St. Petersburg.
He is survived by his wife, Sue, three daughters from his first marriage and a guitar collection.
PETER DIX Death announced Jan. 5, 2007
Irish actor Peter Dix died at age 82. Mr. Dix was a longtime radio actor for the Irish RTE national public broadcast network. He was a member of the RTE Repertory players. Mr. Dix narrated the RTE's 32-hour production of James Joyce's "Ulysses." Mr. Dix appeared in several films and TV series including "Malice Aforethought," "Bloom," "Father Ted" and "The Matchmaker."
FRED BALL Died Feb. 5, 2007
Fred Ball, the younger brother of the late actress Lucille Ball died at age 91. Mr. Ball sat on the board of directors of Desilu Productions. Mr. Ball appeared as himself in the Emmy-winning episode of the "American masters" documentary TV series titled "Finding Lucy." Mr. Ball also appeared in the Emmy-winning documentary "Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie." He received a Special Thanks credit "I Love Lucy's 50th Anniversary Special."
DAVID WILEY Died Feb. 5, 2007
Actor David Wiley died of cancer at age 77. Mr. Wiley appeared in nearly 40 films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Wiley was also a Grammy-winning recording engineer. Mr. Wiley's acting credits include "Hogan's Heroes," "Friday the 13th: Part 3," "St. Elsewhere" and "Jagged Edge
FRANKIE LAINE Died Feb. 6, 2007
Emmy-nominated singer Frankie Laine died of complications following hip replacement surgery. The 93-year-old singer sold over 100 million records during a career that began in the 1930s. Frankie Laine sang many memorable themes songs for films and TV shows including "Rawhide," Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles," "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." Mr. Laine's songs can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as "Raging Bull," "Jennifer 8," "Men Don't Leave," "House Calls," "The Last Picture Show" and "Man Without a Star." Mr. Laine performed in person on many TV shows including "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Steve Allen Show" and "The Colgate Comedy Hour."
RICHARD CURNOCK Died Feb. 6, 2007
British actor Richard Curnock died at age 84 after a lengthy illness. Mr. Curnock acted at the Stratford Festival for 22 seasons. Mr. Curnock began his acting career while still a child. His film and TV credits include "Z Cars," "The Avengers," "Paradise," "The Wars" and "Relic Hunter."
GLENN SARTY Died Feb. 6, 2007
Canadian TV producer Glenn Sarty died of emphysema at age 77. Mr. Sarty produced the award-winning TV series "The Fifth Estate." His other credits include the TV news magazines "Take 30" and "Take 60."
LEE HOFFMAN Died Feb. 6, 2007
Author Lee Hoffman died at age 74. Ms. Hoffman wrote a number of Western novels before turning to Sci-Fi. Her sci-fi titles include "The Caves of Karst" and "In and Out of Quandry." Ms. Hoffman became a fan of science fiction while still a teenager in the 1950s. Ms. Hoffman continued to write both genres during her career, as well as the occasional Romance novel. Her novel "The Valdez Horses" was turned into the Western "Chino" starring the husband and wife team of Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland.
DOROTHY HOAG Died Feb. 7, 2007
During WWII, Dorothy Hoag served her country as a physical therapist for returning veterans wounded in action. She worked at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, CO. Ms. Hoag used the knowledge she gained during this period to serve as technical advisor on the US Army film "Towards Independence." The documentary was designed to help veterans learn to cope with their disabilities. The movie won the Best Documentary: Short Subject Oscar in 1948. Ms. Hoag was the Director of the School of Physical Therapy at the University of Colorado for over 20 years. Thanks for your service to our soldiers.
JOHN IORIO Died Feb. 7, 2007
WWII hero, short story author and professor John Iorio died at age 82. Mr. Iorio taught English at the University of South Florida for over 30 years. His daughter is Pam Iorio, the Mayor of Tampa, Florida. He was decorated for his service in US Army WWII. Mr. Iorio was a paratrooper who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He appeared as himself in the History Channel documentary "The Last Days of WWII." Thanks for your service to your country.
ERV IMMERMAN Died Feb. 7, 2007
Voice actor Erv Immerman died at age 80. Mr. Immerman was a SAG member for nearly 50 years. His voice was very familiar from his TV and radio work. In addition to the many, many commercials voiced by Mr. Immerman, he also narrated documentaries (Out of This World: The Apollo Moon Landings) and voiced animated TV shows. Mr. Immerman acted on the Christian radio series "Adventures in Odyssey." He also provided voice talent for the video game "Titan Quest." His many TV and film voice credits include "Rugrats," "The Addams Family," "Pink Panther and Sons," "The Littles," "Monchhichis," "The Green Dragon," "Duckman" and "Challenge of the Go-Bots."
FRED MUSTARD STEWART Died Feb. 7, 2007
Writer Fred Mustard Stewart died of cancer at age 74. Several of Mr. Stewart's books were adapted to the screen. His occult thriller "The Mephisto Waltz" was turned into a 1971 film directed by Paul Wendkos. The movie starred Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset. NBC dropped the ball when they failed to turn Mr. Stewart's TV movie "The Norliss Tapes" into a TV series. Dan Curtis produced the TV movie about a reporter battling vampire. Sure, it was similar to "The Night Stalker" but the movie still packed a wallop. Mr. Stewart's novels "Ellis Island" and "Six Weeks" were also turned into TV movies.
ANNA NICOLE SMITH Died Feb. 8, 2007
Celebrity sex-goddess Anna Nicole Smith died of undisclosed causes at age 39. Ms. Smith was found unconscious at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. Attempts to resuscitate Ms. Smith were futile. Although Ms. Smith's passing is sad, it is not really a shock. The tragic end of her life if excess seemed preordained in many ways. Ms. Smith rose from poverty to a position of great wealth. She progressed from stripper, to Playboy Playmate, to Guess Jeans Icon and to the wife of a near-dead billionaire. Her court battle over her inheritance with the son of her late husband ended up in the United States Supreme Court. A few movies and TV appearances followed. Ms. Smith's weight ballooned up, and she gained some notoriety when she won her battle against obesity. Her life became another TV sideshow as she allowed the cameras to move into her strange world. "The Anna Nicole Show" was just one more example of how far TV and TV audiences would sink for entertainment. It was like watching a slow car crash. Ms. Smith's life was marked by joy and sorrow in recent months. She gave birth to a baby daughter. Within days, her firstborn child Daniel Smith died of a drug overdose while visiting his mother in the hospital. Her time of grief was complicated by the suspicious circumstances of her son's death, his long-delayed funeral and wrangling over DNA tests to prove just who fathered her new daughter. Her trials on earth are over. I never knew Ms. Smith. My thoughts are based on observing her weird dance through the world of celebrity. Ms. Smith isn't the first person to be overwhelmed by fame and wealth. Nor will she be the last. If her tragic fate can warn some other young person who is also dancing near the brink, then maybe some good will come from these events. Prayers of comfort for her young daughter.
SUSI WUENNENBERG Died Feb. 8, 2007
Daytime Emmy-winning producer Susi Wuennenberg died of liver disease at age 45. Ms. Wuennenberg produced the annual "9/11 Memorial From Ground Zero" broadcasts. She won Daytime Emmy awards for the 2005 "Memorial" as well as the 2005 TV show "Birthday Live." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
ERIK SHCHUMANN Died Feb. 9, 2007
German actor Erik Schumman died of cancer at age 82. Mr. Schumann appeared in over 80 films during his career. Mr. Schumann appeared in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films "Veronica Voss," "Chinese Roulette" and "Lili Marleen." He was in the cast of Disney's excellent "The Miracle of the White Stallions." Other credits include the popular German TV series "Der Kommissar" and the miniseries "Christopher Columbus." Mr. Schumann also dubbed the voices of many American actors for the German theaters. He dubbed films for Tony Curtis, Cary Grant and Jack Nicholson among others.
PHIL SHERMAN Died Feb. 9, 2007
Former Universal exec Phil Sherman died of natural causes at age 78. Mr. Sherman worked for Universal Studios for 40 years. The bulk of his career was in distribution. Mr. Sherman was the Vice President and Division Manager of Motion Picture Distribution when he retired.
IAN RICHARDSON Died Feb. 9, 2007
BAFTA-winning Scottish actor Ian Richardson died in his sleep at age 72. Mr. Richardson appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Richardson was best known in his native land for his portrayal of the reptilian politician Francis Urquhart in the mini-series "House of Cards." Mr. Richardson reprised his role in the two spin-offs "To Play the King" and "The Final Cut." He was nominated three times for Best Actor BAFTAs for the role of Francis Urquhart. Mr. Richardson won for "House of Cards." He was also nominated for a fourth Best Actor BAFTA for the Falklands War docudrama "An Ungentlemanly Act." Mr. Richardson played Jean Paul Marat in Peter Brook's disturbing classic "Marat/Sade." He also appeared in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." Among his many other credits are the Peter O'Toole/Sophia Loren musical version of "Man of La Mancha" and the excellent miniseries "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Ike." Mr. Richardson also appeared in "Whoops Apocalypse," "The Fourth Protocol," "Cry Freedom," "M. Butterfly," "B*A*P*S" and "From Hell."
DA-BIN JEONG Died Feb. 10, 2007
South Korean actress Da-Bin Jeong committed suicide at age 27. Ms. Jeong hanged herself at the apartment of her boyfriend. She appeared in several films and TV series. Ms. Jeong was reportedly depressed over a lack of work. She was the second South Korean actress to commit suicide in the last 30 days. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends.
LADONNA MABRY Died Feb. 11, 2007
Actress LaDonna Mabry after a lengthy illness. Her age was not given. Ms. Mabry enjoyed a successful stage career. She also worked on TV including appearances on "OZ," "The Baby-Sitters Club," "Mathnet," "Spin City" and "Law and Order."
CAROL LUNDBERG Died Feb. 11, 2007
Layout artist Carol Lundberg died at age 72. Ms. Lundberg's credits include "Space Sentinels," "The Fat Albert Christmas Special," "G.I. Joe: The Movie" and "He Man and the Masters of the Universe."
ALEX PHILLIPS JR. Died Feb. 12, 2007
Mexican cinematographer Alex Phillips Sr. died of complications from stomach ulcers at age 72. Mr. Phillips lensed over 100 films during his career. Mr. Phillips was in demand both in his native land and in the US. He was the son of cinematographer Alex Phillips Sr. His father photographed over 200 films! Alex Phillips Jr. shot Sam Peckinpah's most personal film "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." His many film credits include "Romancing the Stone," "Born in East L.A.," "Firewalker," "Murphy's Law," the B-movie classic "High Risk," Robert Ludlum's "The Rhinemann Exchange," "Canoa," "The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday," "The Devil's Rain," "The Savage is Loose," Robert Mitchum's "The Wrath of God," "Buck and the Preacher" and "The Fool Killer."
PETER ELLENSHAW Died Feb. 12, 2007
Oscar-winning matte painter Peter Ellenshaw died at age 93. The multi-Oscar-nominated visual effects whiz worked his magic in over 30 Disney films. Mr. Ellenshaw's work wasn't just limited to Disney films. However it was that body of work that Oscar recognized. He won an Oscar for his work on "Mary Poppins." Mr. Ellenshaw's other three Oscar nominations were for his work on Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Black Hole" and "Island at the Top of the World." Peter Ellenshaw worked his magic as a matte painter. Matte paintings are background paintings done on glass. In the days before CGI, optical printers would combine film elements such as live action scenes, matte paintings and in many cases animation to form the wondrous cinematic images we all love. Mr. Ellenshaw worked on such classics as "The Thief of Bagdad," "Black Narcissus," "Major Barbara," "The Red Shoes," "Quo Vadis" and "Spartacus." Mr. Ellenshaw's prolific work at Disney included such classics as "Treasure Island," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Old Yeller," "Swiss Family Robinson," "The Gnome-Mobile" and the original version of "The Love Bug." The British born Mr. Ellenshaw served his country in the Royal Air Force during WWII.
RANDY STONE Died Feb. 12, 2007
Obviously I am late in posting this obituary. I had a murder trial this month and fell behind in writing many of the February obituaries. I mention this because I was just one of the many people touched by Jodie Foster's introduction to the "In Memoriam" segment at this years Oscar telecast. Whatever gripes one may have about those not included in the TV segment, Ms. Foster's heartfelt introduction was very moving. What made the moment poignant was the way Ms. Foster made it personal by mentioning the recent loss of her friend Randy Stone. Mr. Stone wasn't included in the segment, but he was obviously present in the heart of his friend. It was the first time that the "In Memoriam" segment has been given such a sincere and human introduction. Oscar-winning filmmaker Randy Stone died of heart failure at age 48. Mr. Stone won the Best Short Film: Live Action Oscar for "Trevor." Mr. Stone began his career as a child actor in the 1970s. He became a casting director with over 30 credits for such films and TV shows as "Jaws 3-D," "Bill," "The X-Files" and "Millennium." Mr. Stone was the executive producer of Jodie Foster's feature film debut as a director "Little Man Tate." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
JOHANNA SALLSTROM Died Feb. 12, 2007
32-year-old Swedish actress Johanna Sallstrom was found dead in her home. While the police said foul play wasn't suspected, no cause of death has been revealed. Ms. Sallstrom appeared in over 20 films and TV shows. She was best know for her role as the daughter on the hit Swedish crime TV series "Wallander." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends, especially her young daughter.
CAROL TREVINO Died Feb. 13, 2007
Filmmaker Carol Trevino was killed in a car crash at age 31. Ms. Trevino was on location in Louisiana filming the sequel to "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle." Ms. Trevino's car was struck by a tractor-trailer rig near Shreveport. Ms. Trevino was an Ohio filmmaker who was part of the company Blue Creek Pictures. She wrote the short film "Times Like These" for Blue Creek. Ms. Trevino was a second, second AD on the film "Don't Tell." Prayers of comfort for her family and friends, especially her three children.
JAMES FALKLAND Died Feb. 13, 2007
Scottish actor James Falkland died of cancer at age 70. Mr. Falkland was a stage actor/director in several African countries. His film and TV credits include "The Avengers," "A Twist of Sand" and "The Flame Trees of Thika."
JOHN O'BANION Died Feb. 14, 2007
Comedian Steve Bluestein always lifts my spirits with his comedic musings. Whenever I've had a real bad day, I can go to his web blog and count on several funny insights that seem to help ease the pain of the day to day grind. Today I realized that Steve's writing can be devastating. Like a movie that leaves you in tears. Sometimes I like to step aside and let someone else pay tribute to one who has passed. Steve has graciously allowed me to post his tribute to his best friend, singer/actor John O'Banion. John O'Banion died two days shy of his 60th birthday from complications from blunt force trauma suffered from an accident while on tour in New Orleans three years ago. John O'Banion appeared on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" 27 times. He starred in the Christian film "The Judas Project" playing Jesus Christ. Mr. O'Banion…well. Let his friend Steve Bluestein tell you about him. Prayers of comfort for Steve and all the others who loved John O'Banion.
I need to tell you a story of the early days. The days when dreams were what we lived on and success was what we hoped for. I need to tell you about a friendship that lasted from those early days and remains until today. I just need to tell you.
In the very beginning at The Comedy Store there were not enough comedians to do a show every night and so Sammy would allow singers to use the stage to showcase themselves. It was a nice break between all the comedy. There was one singer who walked into The Store and became a life long friend. This is our story.
It was just another night at The Comedy Store, the regulars were hanging out at the bar. Barry Levinson and Craig T. Nelson were in the hallway, George Miller in the back and me sitting in the little alcove right outside the original room. Sammy told me they were putting on a singer that night, a huge, important manager had signed this new kid and he was going to showcase him tonight with Sammy’s blessing.
The original comedians who started the store were all new to the business. At that point we didn’t have agents or managers, nor did we have the entourage that went with success. But that night in walks this important manager with his new singer. The dull quiet of the club was interrupted by the excitement of someone important entering the room. Tables were being moved, comedians shuffled out to make room for the “important people”. My eye is like a camera, I watched from the back of the room as show business history was about to be made. In walks the singer. How can I put it? Plain and simple, he was the handsomest man I had ever seen. He wasn’t handsome like Clark Gable was ruggedly handsome; he was Brad Pitt pretty. His dark hair framed a chiseled face of high cheekbones and a perfect nose. His eyes were wide set, deep and dark. He wasn’t a big man, maybe 5’8’ or 5’9”. His frame was slight but the women in the club were immediately smitten by him. And the buzz started in the club, “Something special is about to happen.”
The singer took the stage and you could hear a pin drop. He opened his mouth and jaws dropped. He had the most magnificent voice I have ever heard, a pure, clear voice, with a top range that could pierce the smoky night air of a smoke filled nightclub and turn it into pure magic. I looked out into the audience and it was mass hypnotism. Not a person moved. Not a drink was served. I particularly remember a gay comic by the name of Falstaff Wilde (can you imagine the nerve it took to be an openly gay comic in 1973). I remember Falstaff moving to a table ringside and resting his head on his hands like some schoolgirl in love. He was totally and fully enthralled with this guy… and that’s how his impact was on the room. Everyone wanted to love him, to listen to him, to know him. He was star quality of the finest magnitude.
When he got off the stage, to thunderous applause, the manager and the entourage whisked him out of the club like he was Cinderella. It left magic in the room. Who was that masked man? What’s his name again? Where can I see him? Soon talk began in the industry. There’s a new star in town. At a later date the singer was brought back into the club and showcased for the Tonight Show. The reaction was the same and he was booked immediately. He was on his way. I never gave him another thought.
Must have been six months later I’m at The Show Biz (nightclub) in the valley doing a set. I get off stage and there is the singer standing in the doorway of the club’s office. He’s staring at me with such hate and contempt that my skin began to crawl. I diverted my eyes and walked away. Johnny Dark was there that night and I said, “Why does (name) hate me so.” And Johnny laughed and said, “He doesn’t hate you. That’s just how he is.” Not ten minutes later the singer came up to me, “Funny shit.” And kept on walking like he was James Dean. I would later learn he was James Dean… he had James Dean’s soul.
I kept bumping into this guy all over town and sooner or later we became friends, this singer and the comedian. I can’t remember what it was that bonded us but I know we became very close. His wife and my wife started hanging out together. We had baby’s months apart. It was his wife who was in the car with us on the way to the hospital when Ian was born. We were close.
We did everything together as young couples do with kids. We exchanged baby clothes and toys and had play dates. We went out to eat together. We shared news of who was casting what. It was ideal. Then he told me his marriage was breaking up and he was alone. My wife and I had him over for dinner from time to time. We stayed in touch because we always thought since he was a fast rising star I would be his opening act. It never happened. About a year later I found out I was not the father of my child, had a nervous breakdown and fell apart. I had been there for him when his marriage broke up, now he was there for me. He invited me to move into his guest bedroom with him and his new girlfriend. I did just that they were the ones who got me through that transitional period after my divorce.
I loved his new girlfriend. She was/is a special human being; a warm, caring, loving person who only knew how to give. The three of us became tighter than family. We were family. It was with these people that I first heard the expression, a family of friends. They were my family. They were my friends.
Soon there was a baby on the way. I would become Uncle Steve to their little girl and the singer and I would try to pick up the pieces of our careers. You see it hadn’t been easy for him as well. That fast rising star shot across the sky and the burned up in the outer atmosphere. The manager made advances towards him, advances that were not wanted and when the singer rebuffed him… the manager made sure the singer would never work again. It was his own private hell.
The years passed, the kids grew up and we remained close. There would always be a Christmas party or a Thanksgiving meal. There would always be love and companionship, support for the kids and a lifetime of memories. My work took me further and further away from them. He got darker and darker, more reclusive. Oh there were some successes on his part… a single that hit the charts with a bullet, an award in Japan. But for the most part his career stalled and he was left the househusband with the kids.
It’s hard for me to sit in my office and tell you about our friendship. I’ve written about so many friends I’m afraid you’ll think it’s all bullshit. But it’s not. With each person I write about I had a special relationship, a bond, a tie that kept them close to my heart. It was especially so with this singer and his now wife. They taught me how to have fun. They taught me that sometimes you pay a little more for things; you don’t have to always look for the bargain. They taught me that family does not mean blood sometimes it can mean friend. The taught me a lot and I love them with that special place I put in my heart reserved for true family.
I have just come from his house. I walked the stairs that I’ve walked so many times before. I opened the door to that back room, the room they added as their family grew. Only this time the toys weren’t spread all over the floor and the dog wasn’t asleep in the corner. This time the hospital bed was pushed up against the double bed and my friend, this handsome, gifted singer, was gasping for breath as he struggled to leave this earth and pass to the next. How could this have happened? How could 35 years have flown by so quickly? Was this skeleton really the handsome man who walked into The Comedy Store? Could life have been so cruel to him? The answers kept coming back “yes”.
I walked back down to the living room I had spent god knows how many Christmas Eve’s at and in my mind I saw him sitting in his chair, sulking, smoking, with a drink in his hand. But the chair was empty and the air was clear. Only the sounds of our family of friends cutting sandwiches in the kitchen.
It’s not lost on me that this magnificent talent; this beauty of a human being was robbed of his fair share. It was not lost on me that the cruelness of this business had taken from him the only thing he ever had, hope for the future. I listen to the crap on the radio and wonder why isn’t that him? And I wonder how many other dreams are not fulfilled. How many other brilliant actors, dancers, singers, comedians, writers, directors and on and on have died in their bedrooms without knowing the glory of success.
I watched the Grammys last night. I watched as self obsessed people talked about themselves and played “look at me” and I began to cry. That should have been my friend. I cried for him and I cried for myself because a huge part of my life is passing away today, a chunk of life that I will carry with me until it’s me in the hospital bed in the back bedroom. How do you say good-bye to someone who you loved like a brother? I should know by now, I’ve had a lot of experience. But I don’t know how to do it, what to say, where to put my emotions. It’s never easy when I lose another of my friends. It’s not easy tonight.
I always end my pieces with a little smart remark at the end, something to make the reader smile. I don’t have a joke tonight. My heart is too heavy to make anyone laugh. I just wish you could all have heard him sing. You’d understand why I grieve so tonight.
STEVEN PIMLOTT Died Feb. 14, 2007
British stage director Steven Pimlott died of lung cancer at age 52. Mr. Pimlott worked on Broadway and London's famed West End. His stage credits are many. His TV credits few. Mr. Pimlott's credits include the video production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." He also worked on "Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration." Other credits include TV stagings of "Carmen" and "The Sorcerer."
RYAN LARKIN Died Feb. 14, 2007
Oscar-nominated animator Ryan Larkin died of cancer at age 63. The Canadian animator was nominated for the Best Short Subject Animated Oscar for his film "Walking." He also won awards at the Krakow and Melbourne Film Festivals for his shorts "Walking" and "Street Musique." Mr. Larkin began his career working for the National Film Board of Canada at age 19.
PAL ERDOSS Died Feb. 14, 2007
Award-winning Hungarian director Pal Erdoss died at age 60 following a lengthy illness. Mr. Erdoss' films "The Princess," "Countdown" and "Homo Novus" were honored with awards at Cannes, Locarno and the San Sebastian Film Festival. Mr. Erdoss also produced several films. He produced the 1993 film "Child Murders," which won a prize at Cannes.
LEE PATERSON Died Feb. 14, 2007
Actor Lee Paterson died of cancer at age 77. Though he began his career in British films, Lee Paterson was best known for his co-starring role on the TV series "Surfside 6." He co-starred with Troy Donahue and Van Williams in the series about three private eyes in Miami. Mr. Patterson appeared in over 75 films and TV shows during his career. Soap Opera fans remember him for his work on "One Life To Live." Mr. Patterson's credits include "Jack the Ripper," "36 Hours," "Man With a Gun," "Chato's Land," "Death Wish 3," "The Last Days of Patton" and "War and Remembrance."
RAY EVANS Died Feb. 15, 2007
Multi-Oscar-winning songwriter Ray Evans died of a heart attack at age 92. Mr. Evans was half of an extremely successful songwriting team. His partner Jay Livingston died in October 2001. Mr. Livingston's obituary was one of the first ones I wrote for this column. Ray Evans wrote the lyrics and Livingston the music. The pair was nominated for seven Oscars. They won three Best Song Oscars. Their Oscar winning song "Que Sera, Sera" became a plot device for the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock in his remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much." Doris Day sang the song in hopes that her kidnapped son would hear her and reveal his location. Their song "Mona Lisa" from "Captain Carey, U.S.A." won another Best Song Oscar. Their third Oscar was for the song "Buttons and Bows" from the Bob Hope comedy "The Paleface." Ray Evan's songs have been used on the soundtracks of over 150 films and TV shows. Mr. Evans and Livingston were nominated four more times for the Best Song Oscar. They shared one nomination with Henry Mancini for the movie "Dear Heart." Their other three nominations were for the films "Houseboat," "Tammy and the Bachelor" and "Why Girls Leave Home."
WALKER EDMISTON Died Feb. 15, 2007
Noted voice actor Walker Edmiston died of cancer one week after his 82nd birthday. I can't imagine that there is a Baby Boomer alive who hasn't heard Mr. Edmiston's voice. He appeared in or did voice work in over 100 films and TV shows. Mr. Edmiston scared millions of viewers when he provided the voice of the Zuni fetish doll in the TV classic "Trilogy of Terror." Other less threatening vocal performances include his work for Sid and Marty Kroft in such shows as "Land of the Lost," "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" and "H. R. Pufnstuf." He dubbed the voice for German actor Gunter Meisner as Mr. Slugworth in "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Among Mr. Edmiston's many, many vocal performances are "Start the Revolution Without Me," "The Andromeda Strain," "The Flintstones," the original TV series "Star Trek," "Wholly Moses," "The Waltons," "Smurfs," "Dumbo's Circus," "The Gummi Bears," "Transformers," "The Great Mouse Detective," "Fat Man and Little Boy" and Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy." Mr. Edmiston's live action credits include his performance as General Douglas MacArthur in "War and Remembrance," "The Bear," "Little house on the Prairie," "Quincy," "Barnaby Jones," "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Gunsmoke" and "Mission Impossible." Fans of bad monster movies will fondly remember Mr. Edmiston for appearing in and contributing songs to the cult classic "The Beach Girls and the Monster."
DANIEL MCDONALD Died Feb. 15, 2007
Tony-Award-nominated actor Daniel McDonald died of brain cancer at age 46. Mr. McDonald received a Tony nomination in the play "Steel Pier." He was the younger brother of actor Christopher McDonald. Daniel McDonald's film and TV credits include Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm," "Where the Boys Are '84," "The Betty Ford Story," "What's Love Got to Do With It?" and "Sex and the City." Prayers of comfort for his family and friends.
SHERIDAN MORLEY Died Feb. 16, 2007
Writer and drama critic Sheridan Morley died at age 65. Mr. Morley was a radio personality in the UK. He was the son of actor Robert Morley. Mr. Morley appeared as himself on a number of TV shows and film documentaries. Mr. Morley wrote more over a dozen biographies of such people as Noel Coward, Elizabeth Taylor and Dirk Bogarde.
ROGER YOUNG Died Feb. 16, 2007
Actor and writer Roger Young died at age 74. The Oregon actor was known in Japan for his role in the hit Japanese TV series "From Oregon With Love." The 1984 TV series dealt with a young Japanese boy sent to the US to live with relatives after the death of his parents in a car crash. The show was a huge hit in Japan and made the state of Oregon a popular vacation destination for Japanese tourists. There are still many Oregon themed restaurants in Japan because of the TV show. Roger Young also wrote under the pen name Salamander.
PETER HERALD Died Feb. 17, 2007
Producer and production manager Peter Herald died at age 86. Mr. Herald was a production manager on "Star Wars," "Silver Streak," "Alex and the Gypsy," "W.C. Fields and Me" and "There Was a Crooked Man…" among others. Mr. Herald's producer credits include "Foul Play," "Doctor Detroit," "D.C. Cab" and "Outrageous Fortune."
WILLIAM MCGHEE Died Feb. 17, 2007
Actor William McGhee died of breast cancer at age 76. Mr. McGhee had a lengthy and successful stage career in Texas. He was one of the first Black union actors in Dallas. Mr. McGhee is familiar to horror movie fans for his appearance in the 1971 gorefest "Don't Look in the Basement." Mr. McGhee was a semi-regular in the films of B-movie director/producer Larry Buchanan. He appeared in five films for Buchanan: "A Bullet for Pretty Boy," "Free, White and 21," "The Curse of the Swamp Creature," "High Yellow" and "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald." Mr. McGhee also appeared in director Ken Harrison's film adaptations of Horton Foote's plays "1918" and "On Valentine's Day."
JAY JENSEN Died Feb. 17, 2007
Florida high-school drama teacher Jay Jensen died of prostate cancer at age 75. Mr. Jensen was know as the Teacher to the Stars. Many of his former students have gone on to work in the industry. Mr. Jensen was the subject of the documentary "Class Act."
DESMOND O'REGAN Died Feb. 17, 2007
Carpenter and set dresser Desmond O'Regan died at age 69. Mr. O'Regan was a member of I.A.T.S.E. local #44. His film and TV credits include "The Second Civil War," "Alien Files" and "Firetrap."
JACK WOOD Died Feb. 18, 2007
Emmy-winning writer/director Jack Wood died of heart failure at age 82. Mr. Wood won two Emmy Awards for writing the soap opera "All My Children." Mr. Wood directed a number of soap operas including "All My Children," "The Guiding Light," "One Life to Live" and "Search for Tomorrow."
JANET BLAIR Died Feb. 19, 2007
Actress/singer Janet Blair died of complications from pneumonia at age 85. Ms. Blair appeared in over 50 films and TV shows during her career. Ms. Balir began her career as a big band singer. She moved to film during the 1940s. Ms. Blair acted primarily on TV from the 1950s on, though she did appear in some films. Ms. Blair also enjoyed a successful stage career. She did over 1000 performances in touring companies of "South Pacific." Ms. Blair played Henry Fonda's wife in the short-lived TV series "The Smith Family." Her other film and TV credits include "Blondie Goes to College," "My Sister Eileen," "The Fuller Brush Man," "The Fabulous Dorseys," "Caesar's Hour," "The Outer Limits," "Ben Casey," "Fantasy Island" and "Murder She Wrote."
RUBEN HOSTKA Died Feb. 19, 2007
Producer Ruben Hostka died at age 54. Mr. Hostka was the executive producer of the Rob Lowe thriller "For Hire." He was co-producer of the 199 film "Varsity Blues." The Israeli born Mr. Hostka served his country as a member of the Israeli Army in the Yom Kippur War.
FONS RADEMAKERS Died Feb. 20, 2007
Dutch director Fons Rademakers died of emphysema at age 86. Mr. Rademakers' 1986 film "The Assault" won the Oscar and Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film. Mr. Rademakers was honored with nominations and/or awards at Cannes, the Berlin International Film Festival and the Bodil Awards. Mr. Rademakers was nominated three times for the Golden Palm at Cannes for his films "Mira," "The Knife" and "Like Two Drops of Water."
LOTHAR BUCHHEIM Died Feb. 22, 2007
German author Lothar Buchheim died of heart failure at age 89. Mr. Buchheim served in the German navy during WWII. He drew on his experiences to write several books including "Das Boot." Mr. Buchheim's unvarnished tale of German submariners during WWII was turned into a 6-hour mini-series in his native land. The mini-series was cut down to a 150-minute theatrical film for US release. Director Wolfgang Peterson was nominated for two Oscars for the film. Peterson adapted Mr. Buchheim's novel to the screen.
BARBARA BEST Died Feb. 22, 2007
Publicist and film journalist Barbara Best died at age 85. Ms. Best was a unit publicist for FOX in the 1940s. She later worked for Stanley Kramer's production company at Columbia pictures. Ms. Best also enjoyed a full career as a reporter for the San Diego Journal.
JIM PRYOR Died Feb. 23, 2007
Teacher/actor Jim Pryor died at age 74. Mr. Pryor was one of the principle actors in director Russ Hexter's fake documentary "Dadetown." The film was presented as an actual documentary about a small town in transition. The fact it was a fake was revealed in the closing credits. Russ Hextor, the film's 27-year-old director died of an aortic aneurysm just weeks after the film's release. Jim Pryor taught in the NYC school system. He served his country in the US Navy.
HERMAN BRIX aka BRUCE BENNETT Died Feb. 24, 2006
Actor and Olympic athlete Herman Brix died at age 100. Mr. Brix won the silver medal for the shot-put at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Mr. Brix took the stage name of Bruce Bennett and appeared in over 140 films and TV shows. Mr. Bennett played the character of Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan, King of the Apes in the 1930s movie serial "The New Adventures of Tarzan." The 12-part serial was produced by "Tarzan" author Edgar Rice Burroughs. While millions of movie fans world wide loved Johnny Weissmuller's "Tarzan" films, the character's creator hated them. Bruce Bennett was the only actor to play the character as it was written until Christopher Lambert did so in the 1984 film "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan: Lord of the Apes." Bruce Bennett had an important cameo role in my favorite film: "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Mr. Bennett plays a prospector who comes into the camp of the main characters(Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston) and demands to be cut into their operation. He does so knowing that if they say no, he will be killed. Though the main characters decide to kill him, they are interrupted by bandits (We don't need no stinking badges!) before they can do the deed. Mr. Bennett's other film appearances include W.C. Fields' "Million Dollar Legs," "Mildred Pierce," "Sahara," "Nora Prentiss," "Dark Passage," "The Great Missouri Raid," "Strategic Air Command," "Love Me Tender," "The Alligator People" and "Deadhead Miles."
LAMAR LUNDY Died Feb. 24, 2007
NFL great Lamar Lundy died at age 71. Mr. Lundy was a member of the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome that also included Merlin Olsen, Rosie Grier and Deacon Jones. Mr. Lundy scared the crap out of quarterbacks on the field. He also scared the crap out of little kids in the 1960s as the giant Cyclops on the TV series "Lost in Space." The creature became a popular model kit produced by Aurora. Thanks for the thrills!
BOBBY ROSENGARDEN Died Feb. 27, 2007
Drummer Bobby Rosengarden died of kidney failure at age 82. Mr. Rosengarden was Dick Cavett's orchestra leader on "The Dick Cavett Show." He also played drums on "The Ernie Kovacs Show," "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," "Sing Along With Mitch" and "The Steve Allen Show." Mr. Rosengarden was an in-demand session drummer during his career. He played with many Big Band leaders as well as such popular musicians as Arlo Guthrie and Barbra Streisand. Mr. Rosengarden jammed with Jimi Hendrix during an impromptu song session on "The Dick Cavett Show." The incident became the basis for the documentary "Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show."
MERYL O'LOUGHLIN Died Feb. 27, 2007
Casting director Meryl O'Loughlin died of ovarian cancer at age 72. Ms. O'Loughlin was nominated by the Casting Society of America for its Artios Award twice for her work on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless." Ms. O'Loughlin's many credits include such TV shows as "Under Siege," "RFK," "The Outer Limits," "The Fugitive," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Alf." Ms. O'Loughlin's ex-husband was "The Rookies" actor Gerald S. O'Loughlin. They are the parents of actors Chris and Laura O'Loughlin.
JON LACKEY Died Feb. 27, 2007
Jon Lackey died of cancer at age 69. Mr. Lackey designed the monster for opne of the worst monster movies in film history. In "The Creeping Terror" a California town is terrorized by a crawling pile of carpets. In some shots you can actually see the hands of the person under the pile of rugs as they crawl. What did they ever do without CGI? They had fun!
EGON MONK Died Feb. 28, 2007
German writer/director Egon Monk died at age 79. Mr. Monk won several awards in Europe for his work. He directed over 20 films and TV shows during his career. Mr. Monk also wrote a number of the shows he directed. Mr. Monk's credits include "One Day: A Report From a German Concentration Camp 1939," "The Life of Galileo" and "The Oppermann Family."