Two regrettable passings from the world of show business—one I heard about while watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann (Keith had the night off) and the other I just found out about on Facebook from Bill “You dead kids stay off my lawn” Crider at his blog.
I admire the strength, resolve and courage demonstrated within the last year by actor Patrick Swayze, who’s shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 57 after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. I can’t say the same for the man’s acting, which often reminded me of the Dorothy Parkerism about Katharine Hepburn: “She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.” (True story: I was once asked by a Morgantown radio station to review To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar  for their morning show and when the jock asked me what I thought of Swayze’s performance I cracked: “Kind of a drag.”) I’d be hard-pressed to think of a movie I thought Swayze was top-notch in, but The Blind Squirrel Film Theory™ would single out his performances in The Outsiders (1983) and the weepy-but-hard-to-resist Ghost (1990). My mother, on the other hand, was a huge fan: Dirty Dancing (1987) is her favorite film of all time (it used to be Gone with the Wind —go figure), with Road House (1989) a close second. Whatever his thespic limitations, I’m devastated to hear a good person like this leave us at such a young age.
I’m also overcome with grief to learn that actor Paul Burke has also joined the choir invisible at the age of 83 this past Sunday, succumbing to leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Burke made his successful bid for television immortality playing rookie detective Adam Flint on ABC’s Naked City (1960-63), based on the 1948 docu-noir and still one of the best crime dramas to ever appear on the cathode ray tube (Burke was twice-nominated for an Emmy for his role). (The release of selected City episodes by Image Entertainment to DVD helped me appreciate both Burke and the show in ways I couldn’t begin to describe.)
Burke appeared in many a feature film—his debut was an uncredited bit as a soldier in Call Me Mister (1951)—and though his roles included movies like Valley of the Dolls (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969, a first-rate suspenser that deserves more exposure) it was television that brought him his greatest fame. Brief parts in shows like Dragnet and Medic led him to be cast as veterinarian Dr. Noah McCann in the short-lived Noah’s Ark (1956-57). After his stint on City, Burke parlayed two appearances in the first season of High (1964-67, based on the 1949 feature film starring Gregory Peck) into taking over as lead for departing star Robert Lansing at the start of Season Two. He also served brief stints on the daytime soap opera
R.I.P, Messrs. Burke and Swayze—you will be sorely missed.