Thursday, August 25, 2011

“I’m a writer…but then, nobody’s perfect…”

About 99% of the promotional e-mails I receive (and to be honest, I’m always sort of flummoxed when I get that sort of thing because it’s like the people who send them are convinced I’m some sort of mover-and-shaker in the blogosphere) hold very little interest for me but when I fished an e-mail out of my box yesterday touting 2012’s “Great Directors” series of U.S. postage stamps I naturally wanted to put them up on the blog.  The bulk of the e-mail was dedicated to TDOY director god Billy Wilder (and my description of him as such might explain why I got the e-mail—incidentally, the USPS guy who sent me the e-mail referred to him at one point as “Bill,” which I found hysterically funny) but I’m equally ecstatic about the other three directors, particularly John Ford and John Huston.  Suffice it to say, I am so getting some of these when they’re released next year.

I was at the post office yesterday to check on the mail in my post office box and to mail out a couple of things…two weeks earlier while I was there I suffered a small but painful injury in the process.  You see, the main branch of the Athens post office is inconveniently located in a strip mall, and as I was getting out of the car my flip-flop caught on the handicapped access curb and I ended up on my ass after executing (the judges gave me two nines and a ten) a perfect Jerry Lewis-like arm flail.  Fortunately, the generous amount of padding I’ve manage to acquire over a lifetime shielded me from any serious broken bone-age (I was, however, sore as all get out) but I did manage to stove two of the fingers on my left hand and they were a lovely shade of violet for a few days (and also quite painful to type with).

So yesterday when I went to navigate the treacherous terrain that is the post office’s sidewalk I also noticed that there are bricks with little bumps on them right by this alleged handicapped curb.  My Dad argues that they’re there for traction but I’m not so certain I agree…I think it’s a personal injury lawsuit waiting to happen.  My mother’s theory is that both the bricks and my fall were the nefarious doings of my former arch nemesis at the Savannah branch of USPS, the woman you know as Smock Lady.  Mom remarked in her refreshing Pam-like blunt fashion: “She’s probably watching your tumble on video over and over again and laughing her ass off.”

My father gives me a double sawbuck to go and get him some stamps and when the postal lady asked me if I wanted the plain ones or something a little fancy I asked her what she had in the line of fancy and she proceeded to show me several stamp designs, including this one below…

…that I eventually settled on for Dad (or “Pop,” as my nephew calls him…only he pronounces it “Bop,” which makes me think of that old Dan Seals song) because of his great love for Pixar movies.  (Yes, I’m making that up.)  Mom said he probably wouldn’t like what I chose and, as usual, she was right on the money…but it could have been worse—I could have got him some of the Ronald Reagan stamps, which would have gone over like a fart at a funeral.

I apologize for rambling on about the stamps like this but because I’ve done very little that’s productive since Saturday I wanted to get something up on the blog so the place isn’t completely overrun with tumbleweeds.  The ‘rents returned to Rancho Yesteryear on Tuesday and from the anecdotes that spilled forth seemed to have had a swell time.  Mom went on at great length about the fabulous meals they had while they were there (which, to a person who subsisted on cold Spaghetti-O’s and Oreos during their absence, is not something I would advise) but sensing that I was little put out by all these culinary yarns sprung for some really excellent Chinese take-out upon their return.  (We even managed to do without ordering fried rice, because as I have laboriously explained here in the past there’s not one restaurant in this burg who can prepare it to my fastidious specifications.)

Before I go, two blogathon items I want to draw to your attention.  Pussy Goes Grrr has announced that they will be hosting a Juxtaposition Blogathon from September 12-16…and because “Juxtaposition Blogathon” sounds like one of those tunes you’d hear on Schoolhouse Rock I am going to let them tell you what it’s all about:

You are cordially invited to participate in the Juxtaposition Blogathon, the first-ever blogathon hosted by Pussy Goes Grrr, which will take place from September 12-16, 2011. The rules are simple: just write about two (or more) different movies in the same post sometime before September 16, email a link to, and we’ll post that link!

(If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate; just send us an email.)

As you probably noticed, the driving theme of “juxtaposition” is incredibly open-ended, and you’re welcome to take it in any direction you like. You can write about movies from any genre, country, director, time period, etc., just so long as you address multiple movies with reference to each other. You could compare a remake with the original; juxtapose a director’s first movie with his/her last; consider two disparate approaches to the same subject; or call attention to surprising similarities between two otherwise unrelated movies. Get creative! And above all, have fun.

If I can swing this, I might kick in with a contribution (it’s being held at a time of the month when I’m juggling projects in the air like they used to do those plates on Ed Sullivan) but even if I’m not able to I still wanted to get something up to those who may be interested because this is Ashley, Andreas and RF’s first blogathon.  (“Years from now when you talk about this—and you will—be kind…”)

Finally, I wanted to use a brief bit o’bandwidth to thank everyone who’s announced their intention to participate in the first blogathon at this ‘umble scrap of the blogosphere…namely The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon, which will unfurl on October 3—the 50th anniversary of the classic TV sitcom’s premiere on CBS.  I thought “Hey, if I get about 5-10 people who’ll be up for it that’ll be pretty nifty” but at last count there’s 28 people who’ve said “Deal me in” and we’re still a month away from lift-off.  Tentatively, I’m planning on doing a write-up on the episode “Never Bathe on Saturday” (it’s the first Van Dyke outing I remember seeing as a kid) but if someone else wants to tackle that one I’m more than willing to step aside…I like to think I could probably write about any of the episodes—with the exception of “The Twizzle.”  (That to me is the nadir of what is otherwise the gold standard by which sitcoms should be measured.)

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

“I hope you die! I hope you die soon! I'll be waiting for you to die!”

…and now that I have your attention, I just wanted to take a quick moment to shill my latest essay that’s up at the weblog beloved by cinephiles and couch potatoes alike, Edward Copeland on Film…and More— or ECOF, as I sometimes refer to it…particularly when I’m too lazy to type all that out.  Seventy years ago on this date, the film adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s stage hit The Little Foxes was packin’ ‘em in the movie the-ay-ters, and though Hellman’s Broadway chestnut about a really despicable and wealthy Southern family is starting to show a few crow’s feet, it’s still first-rate entertainment…with one of my all-time favorite Bette Davis performances taking center stage (her characterization of Regina Giddens is so pure dagnasty evil I can’t take my eyes off of her anytime she’s on screen).

As I was tooling around the Shreve-TV Me-TV website for some pictures to poach…er, borrow for yesterday’s TV-on-DVD post I came across this page that offers up a preview of what’s in store for viewers this fall; I mentioned the Chicago-based cable channel had plans to add Star Trek and Batman to their lineup but they’ve also obtained a few cast-offs from the Retro Television Network in The Rifleman, Peter Gunn and Daniel Boone.  Old TV favorites like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Mission: Impossible (RTV used to have this back in the days when they were getting their shows from Viacom ‘cause I used to watch it before I hit the hay in the evenings) are also on tap, not to mention (to tie this in to yesterday’s post) the comedic antics of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy—I just hope it’s not that godawful show that CBN used to run many moons ago…that presentation was the yardstick by which “abomination” should be measured.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Announcing (trumpet fanfare) the first Thrilling Days of Yesteryear blogathon!

Since the blogathons have been coming fast and furious of recent I decided this morning that I would stick my toe in the River ‘Thon and announce that this ‘umble scrap of the blogosphere will kick off its first try at hosting an event…and as might be expected, there’s a story to go behind it.

A handful of people at the Facebook page for the British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society were a little put out by all the tra-la-la and flourish that greeted the centennial birthday celebration of Lucille Ball…when the reception for Mr. Silvers’ 100th natal anniversary was…well, lukewarm would be an understatement.  (Not that I didn’t do my part, you understand.)  There were some disparaging remarks made about our favorite “crazy redhead,” comments that I think were born more out of frustration at the neglect shown Phil than anything else…and I believe in Lucy’s defense I pointed out that the fact is her voluminous television output is mostly available on DVD while Silvers’ classic sitcom seems to be remembered (why not take the time to sign this petition while we’re on the subject?) by those who…well, still remember black-and-white TV, I suppose.

Anyway, I thought about this a great deal and while I regret not suggesting a Phil Silvers blogathon on his centennial, it won’t be too late to doff our blog caps to another TV sitcom classic.  October 3, 2011 will mark the fiftieth birthday of the debut of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and while I’ve already been tapped to do a write-up at ECOF (Edward Copeland on Film…and More for you laymen and laywomen), I decided to go the extra mile and see if this might not be the perfect vehicle for TDOY’s very first blogathon.  The Dick Van Dyke Show is my favorite situation comedy of all time, hands down—and so I’m pleased as the proverbial Hawaiian Punch to announce that Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is going to host a ‘thon in honor of this timeless classic.

Now, ostensibly I’d like the entries in the blogathon to be about the actual show: observations, favorite episodes, etc.  but because flexibility has always been the by-word here, I’m certainly not going to limit you as to what you’d like to write about.  If you want to do a biographical sketch…fine and dandy.  If you want to review a film from Dick Van Dyke’s voluminous oeuvre (“Hmm…I don’t think anyone’s ever really addressed the existentialism in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N…”), have at it.  I’d even be up for insights on some of the actor’s other TV ventures, like The New Dick Van Dyke Show or Diagnosis Murder. The only stipulation (and it’s more of a guideline than a rule) is that you tie your contributions in some way (no matter how tortured your logic has to be) to The Dick Van Dyke Show.

So on October 3, 2011 I’ll cobble together a post containing links to all the people who are going to participate…and you can either send those links to me at igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com with “DVD Blogathon” in the subject header or you can put your link in the comments section, whichever way you’re most comfortable.  I hope most of the TDOY faithful can squeeze this into their busy schedules (I’m kind of competing with my pal Vincent’s Carole-a-thon, so I apologize for that); I’ve already been told by my BBFF (pronounced buh-biff) Stacia that she’s called dibs on the classic DVD outing “The Masterpiece” and that if anyone even entertains the thought of duplicating her choice she will send a plague of frog-eating spiders directly to your domicile.  When I get confirmation of the folks planning to participate, I shall amend this post with a list of the potential contributors.  “Come join us/Come join us/Just take a part and join us…”

(You can tell I’m pretty pumped about this.)  Oh, and I took the time to whip up a few banners for promotional purposes, so you can avail yourselves of whatever you need:

The following blogs have raised their hands:
Anthony Balducci's Journal – “My Blonde-Haired Brunette”
Caftan Woman – “The Return of Happy Spangler”/”The Return of Edwin Carp”
Cinematic Opinions You Didn't Know You Had – “What’s in a Middle Name”
ClassicBecky’s Brain Food (“Brains!”) – “Coast to Coast Big Mouth”
Classic Film and TV Café – “My Blonde-Haired Brunette”
Fedoras and High Heels – "Bupkis"/"The Life and Love of Joe Coogan""
The Flaming Nose - “I’d Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All”
The Forty Year-Old Fan Boy – “Uhny Uftz”
Gonna Put Me in the Movies – “The Redcoats are Coming”
The Horn Section Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title
I Am a Child of Television – TBD
Inner Toob – Several Toobworld posts, including "Buddy Can You Spare a Job" and "Sam Pomerantz Scandals"
in so many words… - “A Day in the Life of Alan Brady”/”Long Night’s Journey Into Day”
In the Balcony Never a Dull Moment
Java's Journey – TBD
The Lady Eve’s Reel Life – TBD
The Land of Whatever – Overall view of series
Micro-Brewed Reviews (W.B. Kelso) – "That's My Boy"/"The Ghost of A. Chantz"
My Reader’s Block – TBD
A Mythical Monkey Writes About the Movies – “My Part-Time Wife”
The Nervous Purvis – TBD
Pretty Sinister Books - "The Sound of the Trumpets of Conscience Falls Deafly on a Brain That Holds Its Ears...Or Something Like That"
Resilient Little Muscle - "Buddy Sorrell, Man and Boy"
She Blogged by Night – “The Masterpiece”/"The Man from My Uncle"
A Shroud of Thoughts – TBD
The Slip Stitch - TBD
The Stupendously Amazingly Cool World of Old TV - Overall view of the series
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – “Never Bathe on Saturday”
True Classics: The ABCs of Classic Film – “It May Look Like a Walnut”
Wide Screen World - Cold Turkey
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“You are about to enter hell, Bartolome...HELL!”

Back in June, when Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear hosted its Roger Corman Blogathon, I considered doing a write-up of my favorite film in the director’s critically-acclaimed “Poe” cycle: Pit and the Pendulum.  The 1961 horror classic, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s  1842 short story, premiered in theaters on this date fifty years ago and since I already knew that I’d be discussing the film at Edward Copeland on Film…and More, I decided to go with A Bucket of Blood (1959).  I consider Pendulum to be the best of the Corman Poe films, even though other films like The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965) are certainly worthy candidates for that honor as well.

I’m going to have to sit out a blogathon that’s been announced on September 15th by Mercurie at A Shroud of Thoughts; that date will mark the 95th natal anniversary of British actress Margaret Lockwood, and so Shroud has arranged for a ‘thon to honor the woman whose cinematic resume includes classics such as Doctor Syn, The Lady Vanishes, The Stars Look Down, Night Train to Munich, The Man in Grey, The Wicked Lady and Cast a Giant Shadow…and on the boob tube side, the long-running Yorkshire Television/ITV legal drama Justice.  Previous commitments and a Radio Spirits project will put the kibosh on my participation but I did want to make sure that interested people got a heads up if they’d like to kick in something.

One of those commitments is the Classic Movie Blog Association’s Guilty Pleasures Blogathon, which has been announced for September even though the official date is still written down in pencil because the CMBA is waiting to see who’s planning to sign up for it (I think they had twelve “count me in’s” at last check).  My policy on “movies so bad they’re good” is that while I’m certainly not opposed to sitting down and watching one I prefer not to spend a great deal of time analyzing them because there are too many good movies out there I’ve yet to see.  But a participant in Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear’s Monster Mash blogathon (yes, I am aware that I seem to be shilling quite a bit for Nate’s blog in this post—I hope my check is in the mail) gave me an idea for a film to write about for the CMBA ‘thon—the 1939 cliffhanger classic The Phantom Creeps.  (Two words that will lighten the hearts of any guilty pleasure film fan: “Bela Lugosi.”)

Speaking of too many good movies out there I’ve yet to see (smooth as glass, I tells ya) I was able to get a glance at one of my cinematic Holy Grails this morning—thanks to a tip from my good friend Kliph Nesteroff at Classic Television Showbiz; the 1949 fantasy-film noir classic Alias Nick Beal has been uploaded to YouTube so in case you haven’t seen it (why this amazing film isn’t available on DVD remains a mystery for the ages—stylish, inventive direction by John “Mia’s dad” Farrow and outstanding performances from Ray Milland, Thomas Mitchell, George Macready and TDOY goddess Audrey Totter) you should probably watch it before the YouTube police raid the joint.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You like me! You really like me!

In all the excitement of my racing to the stage yesterday to pick up my coveted Liebster Blog Award, it escaped my notice that I actually copped a second Liebster on the same day—this one from frequent commenter Dawn at (I really like this blog title, by the way) Noir and Chick Flicks.  (Bookends!) Two items of interest involving Dawn’s bestowing me with this award: (1) I learned of this only after I finished watching Stranger in Town (1932) on TCM this morning—which Dawn talks about in this post.  She also has an additional piece up on TDOY obsession Ann Dvorak here, with a photograph that I plan to swipe when she’s not looking…easy…easy…and…

I don’t think she saw me…but you never know.  (“Gosh, Dawn…I have no idea where that photo came from…”)  In a further staggering bit of Internets coincidence, I’m working on a review right now on a film that features…yes, Ann Dvorak.  (She even sings and dances in this one!)

Oh, and the second bit of trivia is that Dawn handed me this award without having to call me the Yiddish expression for a certain dangly area of the male anatomy.  (Kidding…I kid because I love.)  So I thank Dawn profusely for thinking so highly of TDOY, and suggest that you make her blog one of your daily visits—she’s always got something interesting going on in the sidebar.

Meanwhile, in the “Can you feel the love tonight?” department, the vacationing Stacia (she’s going marlin fishing later today) e-mailed me this morning to give me a heads-up about a post at Nathanael Hood’s Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s probing analysis of why it would be compulsory to obtain proof that John Agar’s physician in the science fiction film classic Tarantula (1955) does, in fact, possess a medical degree ended up with a third-place finish as chosen by the participants in FCY’s Monster Mash blogathon.  I want to thank every one who voted for my entry; watching the movie again may not have been the pleasantest of experiences but mocking it mercilessly certainly was, which is why I got such a thrill of contributing the piece to Nate’s ‘thon.  If there was a cash prize involved, I would use it to make a charitable donation to the Society for the Prevention of Gi-Normous Eight-Legged Freaks (S.P.G.E.F.).  So remember, impressionable young children out there in Yesteryear Land—John Agar is only pretending to be a man of science.  Don’t sample large pools of tarantula spool without proper parental supervision.  (This has been a public service announcement from TDOY.)

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Monday, August 8, 2011

I think I left my acceptance speech in my other suit…oh, and blogathon news…

Several months ago, my very good friend ClassicBecky of ClassicBecky’s Brain Food (“Brains!”) and I started a off-and-on e-mail correspondence—she wanted to get to know me better because she thinks highly of the blog, and I wanted to return the favor because if I managed to get into her good graces I could, in turn, exploit her blog for my own evil and admittedly shady purposes.  I am pleased to report that my efforts paid off handsomely—she sent me an e-mail this afternoon pointing me in the direction of this post, which trumpets my acquisition of yet another award for blogging excellence.  (Someday they’re going to figure out that I’m just making all this up as I go along…but as long as those accolades keep coming I…hey!  Stop reading the stuff in parentheses!)

Becky has bestowed upon me the prestigious Liebster Blog Award—“Liebster,” in the German and Spanish vernacular, means “beloved”…and I’m glad Errolette* (Becky) clued me into this because I thought it was the tasty seafood you eat steamed and with lots of melted butter.  (We actually had this for Thanksgiving last year—but it’s a long story, and I’ll have to tell it sometime when I know sister Kat isn’t reading the blog.)  According to the Liebster Blog Award guidelines, I’m to link to the blog what gave me the award (check) and then pass it on to five equally worthy candidates.  This is probably the hardest part of these little ceremonies, because I’m a fan of so many writers in the blogosphere and I know that in leaving someone out I’ll have given that person a license to drive by and egg the house while my parents are watching Caught on Camera.  So without further ado, here are five of my favorite blogs, and how they grew (or are those the Five Little Peppers?):

She Blogged by Night – This will be a nice surprise for my BBFF Stacia, who’s currently enjoying her annual summer vacation (and yet still finds the time to check back in with us via the Internets) and is even, as I type this, getting in a little waterskiing as we can see in this picture:

Okay, the quality is a little iffy and it's kind of hard to make Stacia out—I think Mr. Stacia was sketching some genitalia at the same time he took this snapshot.  (No idea who that dude is in the picture—Stacia would only tell me that his name was “Faustino” and that he makes one hell of a Mojito.)  You know, before the introduction of the World Wide Web you’d have to look far and wide to find a kindred soul who not only enjoys classic movies with the same passion as I but is equipped with the same twisted sense of humor to boot.  That’s my Stacia!  (Canned laughter and applause as wacky theme song plays out.)

Cultureshark – I’ve said this on the blog before, but Cultureshark is the best blog you’re not reading right now.  My friend Rick Brooks has a passion for the same old movies and classic TV shows that I do, but spices up his posts with other bits of pop culture including sports, current movies, hipper music than I listen to and funny features like “My Wife Reads People So You Don’t Have To.”  (He is also the person who coined the description for TCM as “The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™”.)  Rick does have his faults—he’s both a Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers fan, and roots for Penn State—but I just chalk that up to a misspent youth.

Inner Toob – My pal Toby O’Brien has watched—and as a matter of fact, continues to watch—so much television that he is completely unfit for any sort of normal employment…and I should know, because I used to do what he continues to do for a living.  His close friends and followers know him as “The Man Who Viewed Too Much,” and his cable company knows him once he gives them his account number and the last four digits of his Social Security.

Inside Jeff Overturf’s Head - …is a gi-normous repository of song lyrics, classic comic strips and other ephemera that convinces me that Brother Jeff and I might have possibly been separated at birth.  Two facts dispute this: (1) Today is his birthday (go wish him a happy one!), and I was born…oh, no you don’t, Pagie…well, let’s say about a month later—and knowing my Mom the way I do, there is no way on this once-green planet she would have withstood childbirth labor for that long.  Oh, and (2) is that Jeff still has some of the toys and tchotchkes from his youth, whereas my mother rented one of those big honkin’ green dumpsters and chucked every remnant of my childhood into it while I was safely off at college.

World O’Crap – If you’ve been reading this blog since its inception in November 2003, you know that the snarky humor-in-politics blog maintained by Scott C. and s.z. was the godparent of TDOY; I was a big fan of Crap back in its Salon Blog days (and then later in its non-Salon Blog days) and after reading it for a couple of months said to myself: “How hard could blogging be if they can get away with this?”  All seriousness aside, World O’Crap is the blogosphere equivalent of Monty Python—no matter how (pardon the pun) crappy a day I’ve had I know I can skate by and find a post that will result in my doubling over in laughter.

So these are the blogs I’ve chosen to stick with this…er, I mean, bestow this honor upon.  Remember…with great power comes great responsibility.

I also wanted to take a quick moment to give you a heads-up on another blogathon that is creeping over yon horizon—yesterday was the centennial birthday of director Nicholas Ray, and though TCM will fete him with a tribute in October, Tony Dayoub of Cinema Viewfinder can’t wait that long…and so…

…and while you ooh and ahh at the banner, I will turn the blog mike over to Mr. Dayoub.

I'd like to invite anyone and everyone to participate in my third annual Labor Day blogathon, running September 5 - 8. In years past many contributors have made this annual tradition a resounding success, first in 2009 when we celebrated the work of Brian De Palma and last year when we praised David Cronenberg. This year's featured director, Nicholas Ray, would have celebrated his centennial today. First recognized by the auteurists who launched the French New Wave, Ray's body of work is one of the most influential in all of cinema.

In previous Blogathons, I've asked for permission to publish new articles here. But after being overwhelmed with submissions last year, I've decided to do things a little differently. In the interest of running things a little more smoothly, I'll post any links to new or previously published posts on Ray. Send your contributions here, please. I am happy to accept entries from anyone.

Of course, I don't have e-mails for every film writer or blogger. So I'm asking for aid in getting the word out. Even if you choose not to submit a piece, I request that you please help me promote this event at your own respective sites or on Twitter and Facebook.

At top and below are JPEGs to help you market this. If you post one of these JPEGs or contribute a new piece to the Blogathon, please link either of them to this post.

I hope all of you participate in some way.

I’ve already promised Tony I’d do my part—I’m about 95% certain I know which movie I’ll tackle but I’m kind of holding back because if my BBFF Stacia agrees to be dealt in I know which movie she’ll do, and I don’t want to do the same movie because her review will destroy mine without mercy, leaving thousands to perish in its wake.  But if you’re interested in contributing, drop by his place or leave him something in his e-mailbox.

*For reasons unbeknownst to her, Becky once suggested to me in e-mail correspondence that because of her starry-eyed, schoolgirl crush on Errol Flynn she thought her nickname should be “Errolette.”  She calls me “Marlo(n)” because I relayed to her one time an anecdote of how my best friend The Duchess’ grandmother never, ever referred to me by my first name; she always called me “that boy.”  She said it so often I started to think I was Marlo(n) Thomas…and there you have it.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The passings parade

This week’s edition of the “roll call of the deceased” is a little shorter than it has been in recent weeks—which, when you stop and think about it, is an encouraging sign in that while we’ve established that Death rarely takes a holiday s/he might be lingering a bit during those three-martini lunches.  The celebrity notable whose demise came as a stunned surprise would have to be that of Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith—only because he was discovered dead in his apartment on August 3rd at the age of 66.  Upon further investigation, however, police have determined there was no foul play involved and that Smith died of natural causes.

Before Bubba became a household name as an actor and TV pitchman, he was more famous for his exploits on the gridiron as a defensive end for Michigan State University in the 1960s (he had wanted to play for the University of Texas, but the Longhorns wouldn’t give him a scholarship due to the racial segregation prevalent in the South at that time).  Smith was a member of the Spartans at the time of “The Game of the Century,” when Michigan State played Notre Dame to a 10-10 draw in November of 1966 (both teams were undefeated).  (The school retired his jersey, number 95, at a 40th anniversary game celebrating the Michigan State-Notre Dame contest—a fitting tribute to a player who was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.)

After graduating Michigan State, Smith went to play for the Baltimore Colts as a defensive end, winning a Super Bowl ring in 1970 (though Smith refused to wear it, criticizing the Colts’ win as “sloppy”); he finished his career playing for both the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers.  Life after pro football found him seeking work as an actor, and Bubba the Thespian found his deadpan delivery and impressive size in demand in such sitcom venues as Good Times, Semi-Tough and the still-lamented-here-at-TDOY Open All Night, on which he played Robin, Gordon Feester’s “night man.”  Smith also appeared in a series of memorable Miller Lite commercials, often with fellow bruiser Dick Butkus—who became Bubba’s “partner” when the two of them were regulars on the short-lived action-adventure series Blue Thunder.

The films on Smith’s cinematic resume include Stroker Ace, Black Moon Rising and the ever-popular The Silence of the Hams (with Martin Balsam!).  But his movie legacy will remain the first six Police Academy movies (somehow he missed out on the seventh, Mission to Moscow—but he did guest star in the ill-fated TV series based on the franchise) he appeared in as Moses Hightower, the quiet, slow-to-anger cadet who’d only open up a forty gallon drum of whup-ass when seriously provoked.  While my favorite work of Smith’s remains Open All Night and the Miller commercials, he did make a guest appearance on an episode of The Odd Couple where, when asked by Oscar what his most embarrassing moment was, he replied: “When my mother named me Bubba.”

We also bid a fond farewell to actor Francesco Quinn this week—the son of two-time Academy Award-winner Anthony Quinn, Francesco grabbed critical buzz for his small role as Rhah in the 1986 war drama Platoon, and later appeared in such films as Priceless Beauty, Judgment and Placebo Effect.  Quinn also worked with his famous pop in several films, notably a TV-movie of The Old Man and the Sea, in which he played the story’s protagonist as a young man…and of course, Tony playing the older version.  Francesco also landed roles on such TV series as JAG, 24 and The Shield—but his best-known gig was that of Tomas del Cerro on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless.  Quinn succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 48 near his Malibu, CA home on August 5.

And the actress who will live on in movie immortality as “Cha Cha” DiGregorio, the sultry terpsichorean who dances up a storm with John Travolta in Grease, passed away from cancer at the age of 63 on August 3.  Annette Charles’ cinematic resume was a little on the spotty side (outside of Grease, she was also in In Search of Historic Jesus and Latino) but she did acquire a number of guest star roles in such classic TV series as The High Chaparral, The Flying Nun, Gunsmoke, The Mod Squad, Bonanza, Emergency! and Barnaby Jones.

Other celebrities that left this world for a better one in the past week or so:

Jerome Liebling (July 27, 87) – Teacher, photographer and filmmaker who, collaborating with Allen Downs, worked on such documentaries as Pow Wow, The Tree Is Dead, and The Old Men.

Jack Barlow (July 29, 87) – Country music singer-songwriter who scored a few minor hits in the 1960s with songs like I Love Country Music and Catch the Wind; later wrote jingles for Big Red chewing gum and recorded this novelty classic under the name “Zoot Fenster”:

Sam Norkin (July 30, 94) – Cartoonist and caricaturist who specialized in drawing celebrities from the worlds of theater, opera, ballet and film

Dorothy Brunson (July 31, 72) – Pioneering African-American broadcast who became the first woman to own a radio station the U.S. (Baltimore’s WEBB) and the first woman to own a TV station as well (Philadelphia’s WGTW-TV)

Rick Buckley (July 31, 74) – President of Buckley Broadcasting, which owns community station WOR in New York (not to mention stations in Connecticut and California)

Zhanna Prokhorenko (August 1, 71) – Russian film and television actress best remembered for her role as Shura in the 1959 film classic Ballad of a Soldier

Ralph Berkowitz (August 2, 100) – Painter, classical musician and composer best known for his work A Telephone Call

DeLois Barrett Campbell (August 2. 85) – Member of the Barrett Sisters Trio, a gospel group who have won numerous awards, appeared on countless TV shows (Johnny Carson, Oprah Winfrey) and are featured in the 1982 documentary Say Amen, Somebody

Richard Pearson (August 2, 93) – Welsh actor whose cinematic oeuvre includes Scrooge (1951), The Yellow Rolls Royce, How I Won the War, Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Royal Flash…but here at TDOY, he’s beloved as Alfred, the absent-minded brother of Richard Wilson’s Victor Meldrew (“I don’t believe it!”) on the Britcom One Foot in the Grave

Ingrid Luterkort (August 3, 101) – Swedish stage, screen and TV actress who attended Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre acting school in the 1930s with fellow classmates Ingrid Bergman and Gunnar Björnstrand (the leading man in many of Ingmar Bergman’s films)

Andrew McDermott (August 3, 45) – British rock ‘n’ roll vocalist best known for his work with such metal bands as Swampfreaks, Threshold and the German group Sargant Fury

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