Monday, June 29, 2009

R.I.P, Fred Travalena

The benign figure in the photograph above—for those of you who have not made his acquaintance—is Bill, blogger, connoisseur of fine monster movie/serial trailers and on occasion, crotchety old man. (Yes, the one I crack all the “You kids get offa my lawn” jokes about.) I’ve never met Bill in person, but I consider him a solid compadre, for the reason that he was one of the first individuals to point out my blog and not be the teeniest bit embarrassed about it.

But I must confess that I’m a bit apprehensive about the possibility of meeting Bill in person—and that’s because I’m picturing him to look like this:

That’s right—the old Grim Reaper himself. (Unless I can talk him into a game of chess, I’m seriously boned.) I say this only because Bill, more often than not, usually has the news of the latest celebrity to snuff it up on his blog before anyone else—and I’m concerned that he may have a few connections to the underworld (and I don’t mean The Godfather, kiddies) best not talked about.

I just read on Bill’s blog that impressionist Fred Travalena has passed away at the age of 66. The name may not be familiar to many of you (his bailiwick was usually headlining the showrooms of Vegas) but I remember Fred from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it summer TV series called Keep On Truckin’, telecast on ABC in 1975. The show featured fourteen, count ‘em, fourteen comics (male and female)—some of whom would achieve a bit o’fame afterward…many who did not. Among the familiar names: Franklin Ajaye, Didi Conn, Charles “Roger Rabbit” Fleischer, Wayland Flowers (and Madame), Jack “Mr. Carlin” Riley and Gailard “Hee Haw” Sartain. (Curiously enough, the show was originally to be introduced each week by Rod Serling, but Rod died two weeks before the show’s debut, and the introductory tapings were scrapped.)

Travalena was considered by many to be one of the most talented impressionists in the business, and I’m waiting for Mark Evanier to post some anecdotes because I’m pretty certain he crossed paths with Fred (Travalena did a lot of voice work for cartoons and the like). Keep On Truckin’ remains a mist in my memory, but I will never forget the other (pardon the pun) impression he made on me—playing Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle in an uproarious Andy Griffith Show spoof (this one starred Merv Griffin instead of Andy Griffith) on SCTV.

Fare thee well, Fred. You will be missed.


Bill Crider said...

Hey, I'm just a mild-mannered blogger who occasionally runs across obits on the 'net. But it's sure been a scary week.

Bill the Splut said...

playing Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle in an uproarious Andy Griffith Show spoof (this one starred Merv Griffin instead of Andy Griffith) on SCTV.

Far be it for me to trample on one of your beloved memories, although I will: That was Dave Thomas playing Travelena playing Nabors. Fred turned up on a lot of second-tier talk shows in those days, and the "Merv Griffith Show" was a parody of those.

"Merv: The Special Edition" was my favorite SCTV Merv parody, with guest Steven Spielberg (Thomas again) getting killed by the HAL 9000 computer.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Well, no wonder my memory has gotten so bad in my declining years, what with you kids trampling on it and all..."You kids stay outta my brain!"

Thanks for the correction, your Splutness.

Doghouse Riley said...

Reportedly, Dave Thomas just couldn't do Gomer after trying all day to get it, so they filmed one weak line, and Moranis/Merv/Andy says, "Doesn't he sound like Gomer? Fred Travalena is with us!"

hobbyfan said...

Fred also hosted a couple of game shows, "Anything For Money" (1984) and "Baby Races" (approx. 1995), in addition to appearing frequently on "Match Game" and the like. I'd read that he'd battled cancer for a number of years. It'd been in remission, then came back. He will be missed.