2016 was such a hard hitting year of notable actors, authors, musicians, politicians and more that the deaths of 2017 will possibly seem so much less. Especially in the turmoil of everything happening and when we want to look up the upside of all the fun, exciting good things to come. Yet, so far alone in the first 25 days of this year we’ve had a share of passings that most of all pop-culture around the world would feel and some in lesser circles but still notable.
In no particular order here are some of them with minor to major details.
Alfonso Wong – A Hong Kong artist born in mainland China, became famous in Asia for the creation Old Master Q. While not widely known elsewhere it has been translated into English and his work known by fans and inspired creators worldwide. The BBC did a wonderful covering on his career upon his passing.
Lynn Phillips – A television writer and journalist.
Babette Cole – British Children’s Author and Artist.
Bill Marshall – Canadian Producer, helped found the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as well other Canadian film and television mainstays
Phillip Bond – British actor with appearances in Doctor Who (The First), The Avengers, and The Onedin Line
Gorden Kaye – Star of ‘Allo, ‘Allo
Manlio Rocchetti – Italian make-up artist who received the Academy and Emmy award for his work.
Timothy Alan Smith – Professional wrestler who worked under the names Rex King and in the WWE as Timothy Well, 1/2 of the tag team Well Dunn. (His partner Steve Doll, known as Steve Dunn, passed away in ’09)
Francine York – Beautiful character actress of television and film, notably in Jerry Lewis films.
Lamar Dupré Calhoun – Rap producer for the group WC and The Madd Circle under the name Crazy Toones.
Buddy Greco – Recording artist of all genres. A contemporary of Sinatra and Presley, but never as famous as either.
Pascal Garry – Belgian cartoonist, took over from Peyo on The Smurfs after a two year apprenticeship in Peyo’s studio .
Jimmy Snuka – Fijian professional wrestler known as “Supafly”. Also a murder suspect and known criminal, passed away without indictment on a reopended trial after being declared mentally unfit.
William Margold – prolific porn actor and director
Butch Trunks – One of the two drummers in The Allman Brothers craziness.
Miguel Ferrer – American actor of film and television including cartoon voice over work. Major notable roles in Robocop, DC cartoons, Twin Peaks and his final role as Granger, the much loved boss on NCIS: Los Angeles.
Dick Gautier – American actor and voice over actor best known for his work on G.I. Joe and Transformers.
William Peter Blatty – American novelist, screenwriter and director. Most famous for The Exorcist. I personally loved John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!
John Watkiss – British Comics and storyboard artist. Worked for DC Comics, as well as a multitude of movie studios including Disney. Was working on Surgeon X from Image till his passing.
Harry J. Middleton – best known as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s right hand man.
Yanni Alexis Mardas aka Magic Alex – a guy who somehow convinced The Beatles to let him be part of their entourage and spend lots of Apple Studios money, yet never contributing anything successful other then being that guy who tricked the Beatles.
Shigeru Kōyama – Japanese actor who appeared in many films and television including a Zaotichi, a Godzilla and Ridley’s Scott’s Black Rain.
And as I wrote this entry Mary Tyler Moore, world beloved actress of stage, film and small screen passed away after a long illness. For many she will be considered the first important death of this year, but I feel all these are as are any I might’ve missed.
In a world of pop-culture with music, television, comics, wrestling, video games, movies and more… there are important figures from agents, to publicists who shall pass. They all made their mark and all were important so sometimes we must find time to acknowledge them.
Between March 30th and April 7th, 2015 the world saw three major character actors of pop-culture and also cult fame leave their mortal coil. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s these men left an impression of my mind.
Robert Z’dar, he of the huge chin because of his birth defect aka cherubism was part of some of my favorite films, and played a cop, gangster, and more over the years. Z’dar actually had a pivotal role in my second favorite film TANGO & CASH in which his appearance was very important to the character and made him even more menacing. Tom Towles, a man who also played killers, cops and more, got his name out to the world in HENRY: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but made the most impact on me in the sci-fi horror THE BORROWER. Towles also became known better in later years as the cop in Rob Zombie’s horror films. Finally, James Best who became best known as Roscoe P. Coltrane, one of two antagonists on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. Throughout the 50’s and 60s, Best was a regular guest star on many a western and crime drama ranging from The Lone Ranger to Perry Mason.
After Towles passing I envisioned he and Z’Dar meeting up in whatever afterlife may or may not exist for a comedy horror about two bungling cops who shoot first and never ask questions. I couldn’t get myself to draw it though. Then Best died and I felt he’d easily work in the fictional film/show and I knew I had to do something as a tribute. PCS does LOTS of art (most of it wrestling inspired) but rarely posts it here. I feel in honor of these three men I must share this tribute which is incomplete, but says everything I want it to say.
Ralph McQuarrie (82, complications of Parkinson’s): Best known as the concept artist for Star Wars, McQuarrie was an accomplished painter as well and designed for E.T., Indiana Jones, Close Encounters.
James Metcalf (86, natural causes): Metal & Copper sculptor
Rusty Mills (49, colon cancer): Animation Veteran. As of now his official website still is up.
NEKST (all info undisclosed): All city Graffiti artist
The Houston Press has an amazing obituary on this talented artist. This is also the one time I can actually use my own images as tribute.
Gerry Anderson (83, dementia complications): While he will go down for creating THUNDERBIRDS, Gerry Anderson offered television history, cult pop culture history, and science fiction history so much more. He was also able to give us SPACE:1999 and SPACE PRECINCT, as well as produce THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. From marionettes to space epics to education to children’s programming, he was truly a great.
Don Brinkley (91, natural causes): A writer and producer on Television going back to the 50’s and working on shows such as Highway Patrol, Ben Casey and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. His most notable work came from developing the one successful MASH spinoff Trapper John M.D., writing and executive producing all 100+ episodes.
Jim Duffy (74, cancer): One of the most prolific and important animation directors and supervisors of the last 40 years, Duffy worked as animator at Hanna Barbera in the 70’s before moving up to a higher position on titles such as G.I. Joe, Jem and even Captain Planet. He eventually settled in for 20 years at Klasky Csupo, overseeing Rugrats, As Told By Ginger, Rocket Power and more during the animation company’s hey day of success.
Nora Ephron (71, pneumonia by way of leukemia): The “Queen” of Romantic comedy one could say, she was also just a fabulously fun writer. She’s always be best known for When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but for me it will always be the Witsec farce My Blue Heaven directed by the under appreciated Herbert Ross and the universally panned media attention/religious farce Michael which she directed herself. Both films take an amazing look at their subject matter and are stronger pieces of humor than her particularly mild mannered looks at romantic foibles. I wish Nora had actually tackled to writing books more, I think she’d been an awesome person to have in the library, even more so than her films.
Robert Fuest (84, undisclosed): This intriguing writer and director gave cult fans the universe that is The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises, as well as adapting Michael Moorcock’s The Final Programme. Yet he also wrote episodes of The Avengers, adapted Wuthering Heights with Timothy Dalton and directed various afterschool specials even. When he retired from film making he turned full time to paintings creating abstract oil landscapes with which were displayed in various galleries.
Ulu Grosbard (83, natural causes): Behind the helm of some of the greatest films of all time (arguably) and the man who launched the career of Dustin Hoffman, he was also one of the best stage directors as well. Grosbard handled Arthur Miller, David Mamet and others. His other films included The Subject Was Roses, Straight Time, True Confessions and The Deep End of the Ocean.
Noburo Ishiguro (73, various complications): Animation director of the shows that became famous in America as Starblazers and Robotech. (AKA Spaceship Battle Yamamoto and Macross).
Zalman King (69, cancer): Truly a kind of the erotic, King is best known for Red Shoe Diaries. Alomg his great career though he also worked on 9 ½ Weeks, and the two Blue Orchid films, not to mention two other TV series of an erotic nature which were well received. Before his writing and directing career he had a fairly successful acting career as well, most notably starring The Young Lawyers which he received a Golden Globe nomination.
Frank Pierson (87, natural causes): Screenwriter and Director, Pierson had his hands in two of the most awesome films of all time. He wrote the screenplays of Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon, as well as writing and directing The Looking Glass War and King of the Gypsies (both adaptations of amazing books that I loved… how many writers tackle John le Carre AND Peter Maas)!? Later on he directed a bunch of made for cable films including Truman with Gary Sinese and Conspiracy with Kenneth Brannagh.
John Rich (86, natural causes). Since the 60’s he produced and directed multiple television shows including All in the Family, Benson, and MacGyver. He was also behind a lot of many intelligent and fun, but unfortunately unsuccessful shows such as the Jeffrey Tambor vehicle Mr. Sunshine, one of the many shows that tried to keep McLean Stevenson on TV after MASH, and the Brian Keith/Cloris Leachman sitcom Walter & Emily. This was seriously a man who tried to make TV happen and obviously with being in show runner at All in the Family and MacGyver he was as successful as much as he failed.
Tony Scott (68, suicide): Of all director’s I think Tony Scott might have given me more of my favorite films than any other. He’s the only director to make a truly awesome Quentin Tarrantino flick with True Romance, and despite what anyone says he made Last Boy Scout work, along with Beverly Hills Cop 2 and even The Hunger. All films which he was hired to direct and then had to fight with studios to be films he actually envisioned instead of just being a hired hand. I also really loved Domino. Oh sure, people will always talk about Top Gun, but its the other stuff that excites me. He also developed Numb3rs and The Good Wife with his brother and those shows original creators, helping bring to life some of the best TV ever.
Mel Stuart (83, cancer): He gave the world the film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the beloved, timeless Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory working closely alongside Gene Wilder , Road Dahl and David Seltzer to bring the legendary musical to life. Before and after that he was the producer and director on many wonderful documentary pieces on an extremely varied amount of subjects from war to literature to actors and in particular political runs as well as the filming of the Watts Summer Festival sponsored by Stax Records in 1972.
Richard Alf (59, cancer): A co-founder of what became Comic-Con International, he also ran a successful comic shop as well as mail order service. His contributions to how the comics industry and well, the entertainment industry as a whole can not be ignored. An article on the San Diego Union Tribute website has a very well written and detailed account on his life and accomplishments.
Josie Decarlo (82, natural causes): A model for a short time in France, she became Dan Decarlo’s wife and the actual inspiration for Josie and The Pussycats. After his passing she kept his legacy and legend going.
Jean Giraud aka Moebius (73, cancer): I probably first discovered Moebius through his work with Jodorowsky. I was a weird kid growing up, so The Incal definitely called to me when Epic published it. I like many people who learn to love Moebius, be it through Heavy Metal, his Silver Surfer comic or even Blueberry would love when they found out he was designing something for a movie. Be it ALIEN, TRON, WILLOW, etc. and of course the failed Jodorowsky version of DUNE.
Joe Kubert (85, cancer): I absolutely and utterly have loved TOR and SGT. ROCK since I probably first started really discovering comics as more than just a kid who read comics. It has amazed me how he just kept doing work that surpassed anything he did beforehand as he got older. Books like Fax from Sarajevo blew me away showing what a true talent the man really was. He can also be thanked for helping train and guide some of my favorite creators ever through his school, including Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, Tom Mandrake and Adam Warren.
Sheldon Moldoff (91, natural causes): A mainstay of DC Comics from the 40’s through the late 60’s, Sheldon is one of those unsung legends who did multiple classic covers and alongside Bob Kane ghost drew and co-created some of the most major characters of the Batman mythos. His best known work that is credited to him is his run on the 40’s Hawkman feature in Flash Comics.
Keiji Nakazawa (73, cancer): One of the few survivors to have actually been within Hiroshima during the World War II bombing, he went on to take this experience and become the creator of the highly popular and well known BAREFOOT GEN. Adapted into various live action and animes, his work delivered some of the strongest manga to make it stateside and a true legacy of the power of sequential storytelling in how it can capture life in all facets and add a new face unseen without comics.
Al Rio (49, suicide): The only work from Al Rio that I personally have gotten to enjoy was within the one shot comic associated with the video game Unbound Saga. He drew many other great books though and despite being considered a “good girl” artist, he has a linework style that should’ve procured him many more bigger gigs than he had. If he had been given a real run on something that I loved I would not have been upset about it. I probably would’ve ended up calling him one of my favorites, but unfortunately this was not be.
John Severin (90, natural causes): I first discovered the awesomeness of Serverin as a kid with CRACKED. Of course as I got older and “studied” comics I discovered his long history, especially his amazing work in Western comics. One of the best things I ever think he drew was one of the miniseries in the Desperadoes. It amazes me that his sister Marie is just as talented as he was. There’s actually no artist right now who can even come close to capturing John’s style. A true one of a kind artist whose legacy left behind are pages of shootouts, action, war and comedy that are so versatile in their expressionism, it makes you wish he drew every comic ever almost.
Tony de Zuñiga (79, results of stroke): Best known for co creating and drawing Jonah Hex in the 70’s, Tony is accredited with an even more important factor in the history of comics. Being a Filipino born artist and quite talented inspired the head honchos at DC to go to the Phillipines for a talent scout way back when. That search brought us talents like Nestor Redondo and Alex Nino, which in turn allowed folks like Whilce Portacio and others.
For many of these actors and comedians I found it hard to write something that would be meaningful. Their names and a few of their credits or a quick acknowledgment of who they were will be sufficient I feel especially for someone like me who is an avid film, television and theater lover who could go on and on about many of these people. I have had personal life experience with two of the men listed and neither of these are actually good experiences, so I’ll save the vitriol on a Tribute.
Ian Abercrombie (77, kidney failure): ARMY OF DARKNESS, STAR WARS: CLONE WARS, SEINFIELD
Luke Askew (80, cancer): COOL HAND LUKE, EASY RIDER, PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, ROLLING THUNDER
R.G. Armstrong (95, natural causes): BONANZA, RAWHIDE, GUNSMOKE, PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, PREDATOR
Zina Bethune (66, accident) Noted mostly as a dancer, she also appeared in THE DOCTORS AND THE NURSES and WHO’S THE KNOCKING AT MY DOOR
Peter Bergman (72, leukemia): FIRESIGN THEATER
Ernest Borgnine (95, renal failure): MARTY, AIRWOLF, POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE GREATEST (coincidentally Angelo Dundee also passed away), THE BLACK HOLE, THE SINGLE GUY, BASEKETBALL
Dennis Bowen (61,undisclosed): WELCOME BACK KOTTER
Gary Collins (74, natural causes): THE SIXTH SENSE, AIRPORT
Richard Dawson (79, cancer): HOGAN’S HEROES, THE RUNNING MAN (oh and he hosted FAMILY FEUD)
Phyllis Diller (95, natural causes): This wacky standup appeared on every variety show, talk show and almost every episode of Hollywood Squares, as well as having her own sitcom in the 60s
Michael Clarke Duncan (54, complications of heart attack): THE GREEN MILE, THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, THE FINDER
Charles Durning (89, unknown): DOG DAY AFTERNOON, THE MUPPET MOVIE, TOOTSIE, V.I. WARSHAWSKI, HUDSUCKER PROXY
James Farentino (73, complications of hip fracture): BEN CASEY, POLICE STORY, DYNASTY, MELROSE PLACE
Ben Gazzara (81, cancer): THE YOUNG DOCTORS, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, THEY ALL LAUGHED, THE BIG LEBOWSKI,
Andy Griffith (86, Heart Attack): ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, MATLOCK, A FACE IN THE CROWD
Larry Hagman (81, leukemia): I DREAM OF JEANNIE, DALLAS
Robert Hegyes (60, Heart Attack): WELCOME BACK KOTTER, CAGNEY & LACEY
Sherman Helmsley(74, cancer): THE JEFFERSONS, AMEN
Davy Jones (66, heart attack): OLIVER, THE MONKEES, MY TWO DADS
Lila Kaye (82, natural causes): Longtime British television actress who appeared in film and also had her own American series MAMA MALONE
Alex Karras (77, kidney failure): BLAZING SADLES, PORKY’S, WEBSTER
David Kelly (82. illness): (British series) OH, FATHER!, LAST OF SUMMER, ROBIN’S NEST, also was in WAKING NED DEVINE
Jack Klugman (90, cancer): THE ODD COUPLE TV series, QUINCY M.E.
Elyse Knox (94, natural causes): The JOE PALOOKA series co-starring Joe Kirkwood.
Lance LeGault (77, natural causes): VIVA LAS VEGAS, THE A-TEAM, AIRWOLF
Richard Lynch (72, Heart Attack): DEATHSPORT, GOD TOLD ME TO, BAD DREAMS
Russell Means (72, cancer): Primarily a political activist for Native Americans he had notable acting roles in DANCESA WITH WOLVES, NATURAL BORN KILLERS and DISNEY’S POCAHANTAS, as well as various TV appearances
Jerry Nelson (78, various complications): SESAME STREET, MUPPET SHOW, FRAGGLE ROCK
Lupe Ontiveros (69, cancer): ZOOT SUIT, THE GOONIES, SELENA, CHUCK & BUCK, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES
Ron Palilio (63, Heart Attack): WELCOME BACK KOTTER, FRIDAY THE 13TH VI, also an young adult book illustrator
Hal Roach (84, long illness): Many comedy self titled comedy specials
Jan Berenstain (88, stroke): Growing up with The Berenstains was an experience in of itself. When Stan died in 2005 it was really tragic, as he was taken by cancer. Luckily Jan and her son took the reigns of the bears for a few years and they even found their way into the modern world. I can remember when I was young the book always made me wish I had a sibling while at the same time grateful I didn’t. I don’t remember the bears having any friends though. They probably did, but I don’t recall them. There was a cartoon too, which I remember not to vividly but it did exist. There was this PC thing as well, which I still own. I was way too old for the Bears at that point actually, but the point and click style and nostalgia for my childhood grabbed me.
Maeve Binchy (72, illness): I must honestly admit I have never read a Maeve Binchy book, but my mother has read all of them. She was a true fan and I’m sure if I took extra time to get her to write a little bit about her it would be sweet and heartwarming and reassuring that at least someone in this family got affected by this writer who I’m sure was wonderful. I did see Circle of Friends, but it was nigh impossible to not notice all the hype and clamor for this brand new discovery Minnie Driver and how wonderful she was.
Ray Bradbury (91, illness): I absolutely love The Toynbee Convector. Sure it’s the Martian Chronicles that put Ray on the map and Farenheit 451 that cemented him, but he was so much more than that. Something Wicked This Way Comes and it subsequent stories as well as Death Is A Lonely Business made me more than just someone who really enjoyed his work, but a serious fan. It’s amazing how much of his work has actually been adapted as well for both the small screen, stage and film. Twilight Zone used his shorts as basis (Bradbury also created a few original scripts for TZ as well), then of course there was even his own TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, which he wrote all the episodes for and actually was in the introduction as a host. A search on Youtube of Ray Bradbury Theater should bring you all the episodes, choosing one specifically to recommend seems a bit much, so really just go to to Youtube and see what catches your eye, you can’t go wrong.
Helen Gurly Brown (90, undisclosed): For over 40 years the editor in chief at Cosmopolitan, she will always for me be “The Single Girl”. I’ve never actually read “Sex and the Single Girl” and I probably never will, but it and she inspired the film of the same name in which Natalie Wood shined. The movie itself isn’t good. Everyone knows that. But it made so much money it’s a freaking classic nonetheless. Also, it helped DOWN WITH LOVE happen so many years later. So here’s to Helen Brown, fucking up dating for people worldwide for years. Thank you Helen.
Harry Crews (76, neuropathy): As a journalist I have read a share of his work in Esquire and Playboy. He covered some crazy stuff that you’d swear was fiction. I never read his fiction, so I’m not sure if it was ever crazier than what he found in the real world or if he just used the real world to inspire fiction of things he couldn’t properly convey in journalistic articles in the way he wanted. I should explore that, but there’s so much to explore.
Gene DeWeese (78, Dementia with Lewy bodies): I’m familiar with DeWeese because of the few Star Trek: The Next Generation books he wrote. I use to devour those things like comics. It was a pretty bad habit, as most of those books were essentially hackneyed fan fiction put into a pretty package, but I was an addict, addicts know when something is bunk and still take it and look for more.
John Sargent, Sr. (87, health complications): Executive at Doubleday as President and Chairman. Amazingly he started working at the company long beforebefore he dated and then married the founders grand daughter and kept it after their divorce because of his incredible success into turning Doubleday into the Powerhouse it remans today. Later he got married to Liz Kelly, top editor in charge formerly at William Morrow, Harper Collins and Cosmo.
Maurice Sendak (83, stroke): The thing I loved the most about Maurice was that he always stated that he was not a children’s book author. You have to love that a man who created one of the greatest and most loved children’s books of all time refuses to accept what they called him or that he continued to create Children’s illustrations for others as well as develop Children’s TV… he wasn’t making stuff FOR kids, he was making stuff for everyone, it just so happened that the target market in publishing and TV was kids, but he wanted everyone to love it and… well I think they did. I also loved that he was a crotchety gay Jewish Atheist (one can be Jewish and Atheist… he identified with the plight, if not the beliefs). I mean seriously… how awesome is that? He was never quiet about it either. He was always crotchety, he was always Jewish and he was always gay, even if the last part never actually came out in his personality or publicly till 2008. I could probably go on forever of my love of the man and his work and what he offered, but I think I’ve said too much.
Derick Thomson (90, natural causes): Master of Gaelic poetry and literature, as well as many books teaching and explaining the Gaelic language, Professor Macthomas has been in my periphery and part of my base of knowledge for a long time. He would’ve been a great man to have gotten to meet had I given myself chance to ever visit the isle… but alas it was not to be.
Gore Vidal (86, pneumonia): I’ve never read a word Gore Vidal has written, but I know I’ve definitely seen his work on screen, butchered, uncredited or officially. I’ve always wanted to read thing like Lincoln, Myron, Empire, etc… just never got around to it. Maybe one day I will, I owe it to myself.
Sam Youd (89, natural causes): AKA Chris Youd, Hilary Ford, Peter Graaf, Stanley Winchester and most notably John Christopher. As John he wrote The Tripods, which if you’re an American, were a teenager or a kid in the 80’s, liked stuff, had a TV and intelligent parents you saw on PBS (if you didn’t, well, too bad, it was on and it was awesome, but if you really must see it, here’s a link to part 1 of episode 1 on Youtube. I believe the show is also on DVD, but only in PAL). The Tripods was not the only work of John Christopher to be adapted either, he was truly a science fiction great and with his pseudonyms surely a great writer period.
Pablo Fuentes Reyna aka MS-1 (55, car accident): Most popular in the 80’s as a part of Los Infernales with Pirata Morgan and others. I personally was never really privy to his work but it seems interesting to me which Luchadores names are public knowledge and which are not but either way I think they die with their mask on (although MS-1 did not wear a mask).
Aristóteles Radamés Coccó Flores AKA MS-2, Maskare and later as as Yeti (57, cancer): Aristóteles Radamés Coccó Flores AKA Maskare and later as and most well known as Yeti (57, cancer): Another luchadorian h actually dressed like a Sasquatch/Yeti and worked in AAA in the 80s when it we got it on Galavision. His existence is actually a sight to behold. Before all that though he was a regular team partner of MS-1 and was even brought into Los Infernales for a short time. Despite years passing since the two worked together, fate took them both in the same year. Curious. Here’s a match where he teamed with Tinieblas Jr. and Sr, as well as La Calaca against Pierroth Jr, Heavy Metal and Latin Lover (oh and midgets too). This match isn’t the best example that shows Yeti’s size though as the Tinieblas were freakishly tall as well was La Calaca. The only average sized lucha here actually is Heavy Metal.
Joe Scarpa (87, results of a fall): The man known as Chief Jay Strongbow was never in the main event, but he was truly a wrestling superstar. Four tag team championships, a household name, a member of the Hall of Fame, and the co-star of the second most brutal strap match in mainstream history with the man who was the co-star of the most vicious Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. The best thing about how Strongbow was not actually a Native American, but he was still respected and Chris Chavis aka Tatanka who was a true native never had a problem with it. Scarpa was also trained by Don Eagle, so that gave him a pass. Here’s that Indian Strap match.
Rip Hawk (82, heart issues): A multiple WCCW World Tag Champion, Rip Hawk’s biggest claim to fame in professional wrestling is when he teamed up with a young Ric Flair. Hawk was a stocky man who could throw a good punch and if anything at leats make you belive he’ll beat you up. He definitely missed a certain charisma and look to be more than a talent that helped others and a consummate ring grappler bit those are admirable things to have been. Here’s an old match with him teaming with regular partner Swede against some guys.
Brad Armstrong (50, medical distress): The most charismatic, physically talented and exciting of the Armstrongs (sorry Road Dogg, but he was) was also the one who struggled the most career wise. While brother Scott has always had a referee gig and brother Jesse James is mixed in deep with wrestling history, Brad never made the impact he deserved the chance to make (although he did do better than third brother Steve). More underrated than Doug Furnas it could say… not as an inring performer, but all around, definitely. Although he was part of some awesome moments, including when he made two run-in appearances in one match as different personas, as his masked persona was not supposed to actually be him. He was also at one point one half of the greatest tag teams ever in The Lightning Express, but their push got halted as Tim Horner became a jobber. One of the greatest matches he should be remembered for is against Dean Malenko, he doesn’t win… not even close, but he holds his own and proves how good he was in this one.
Buddy “Jack” Roberts (67, pneumonia) : Any true real wrestling fan with an actual history know The Fabulous Freebirds, even if all they know is current WWE road agent Michael Hayes. The Freebirds were so much more though. While many would say it was Hayes, Gordy and Garvin, it was Buddy Roberts who made them totally awesome and he was there before Garvin… he was The Freebirds. His nickname “Jack” was because he was always drunk on Jack Daniel’s. He made it work though, it wasn’t just a drunk dude barely able to walk, but a drunk dude being really entertaining and good worker. Hayes was the looks, Gordy was the muscle and Buddy “Jack” was well Buddy “Jack”. The Freebirds were just cool before cool was even a concept. Well, you know what I mean. Buddy also had the craziest voice. He eventually got lung cancer and you could see it happening, he talked like he smoked 22 packs a day. He retired way back when, but I’ll never forget him or The Freebirds. Guys like Hayes, Jack and Gordy paved the way for so many folks, it’s a shame nobody ever says something for them. DDP, CM Punk, Edge, guys like that would’ve never even been given a chance (and they STILL had to earn it) without guys like those three to at least take a shovel to the groundwork. Finding the best of Buddy isn’t easy, but here’s a clip where he cuts a promo with Terry, as well as “Iceman” King Parsons. Followed by a longer clip in which the Freebirds confronted Mike Graham directly after the passing of his father.
That second clip brings us to: Mike Graham (61, suicide): The son of legendary promotor Eddie, Mike seriously was never really that good in the ring, but he had a true love and passion for the industry. That in of itself truly shined and hey, even got to be a champion a couple of times. Sure it was AWA Light Heavyweight champion as the “biggest” title in terms of indutsry clout, but he owned Florida. Sure, he also OWNED Florida, but he never actually really used that card. I think that may be what finally after all these years may have brought him down. Despite his passion, dedication, respect for others, he was still the son of Eddie Graham and once he sold off the entire FCW library to WWE/Titan he had nothing more to live for. Love, children, it should be enough, but for many… it’s just not enough and depression is a horrible disease and sometimes it takes us, especially in a family with the disease strong. Eddie killed himself 20 years ago and Mike’s son killed himself two years ago… that Mike found the strength to last is a testament to his dedication.
This is the final of my tributes to the people who have passed this year, as with the rest it is broken down alphabetically and the age of the person and their cause is in parentheses after. In this final part I focus on the media entertainment industry, the field I have the most connection with. There are sparse links here, but lots of indepth writing and analysis.
FILM and TELEVISION (Actors, Producers, Directors, Music, Crew)
James Arness (88- natural causes): For over 20 years, James Arness was one tough man, Marshall Matt Dillon (the cowboy, not the actor). For more than 5 years before that he appeared in Western films and amazingly as The Thing in the original adaptation of “Who Goes There?” by John Campbell and also as The FBI agent in Them! It’s of course notable to mention that James’ younger brother was Peter Graves, another brilliant actor who got known as another tough sonofagun IMF Agent, Jim Phelps, who unfortunately passed away in 2010.
Trevor Bannister (76- heart attack): This comedic actor who also appeared in lots of theater productions would probably be only known to fans of British comedy and most especially to fans of “Are You Being Served?” as he appeared as a major player in over 40 of the 69 episodes. He made appearances in other British programs including a run on the longest running sitcom in Britain, Last of the Summer Wine.
John Barry (77- heart attack): A true music master, a classical music legend living in modern times, he composed and orchestrated some of the most amazing music ever heard by ears everywhere. He made movies larger than life and gave them breath they didn’t have before him. Widely known as composing for James Bond films it is the work he did for movies such as Born Free, Dances With Wolves, Out of Africa and Midnight Cowboy that mesmerizes my ears and senses.
Jeff Conaway (60- complications of drug use): The true star of Grease and the main reason Taxi had something really touching and personal, at least for me personally. This particular scene in Taxi back before his drug abuse caused the writers and directors to completely not follow up this brilliance is a personal favorite. Jeff was a man of immense talent, spirit and energy. On top of being the original Kenickie he also played Zuko for awhile on Broadway, but Kenickie and his story always resonated with me for some reason. Of course so did Bobby Wheeler. It is of course quite unfortunate that Jeff will be as remembered for his film and TV work as his appearance on the entertaining garbage of celebreality. I hope in years to come that part of his career is wiped clean and his amazing voice and quality artistic talent is what is praised and memorized.
David Croft (89- natural causes): Co-creator of ‘Allo, Allo, Are You Being Served?, this former soldier turned writer and producer is one of the most important individuals in sitcom television alongside his writing partners. There is no doubt that much of what was created and developed on the shows of his creation inspired not only British comedy, but American sitcom comedy for years and years to come.
Frank DiLeo (63- complications of surgery): Music executive and manager, famous on screen for Tuddy in Goodfellas and Frankie “Mr. Big” Sharp in the Wayne’s World flicks. His existence as a character definitely gave Chris Farley the funniest segment in the first Wayne’s World film.
Ryan Dunn (34- car crash): Stunt man, extreme sports enthusiast, and daredevil, the right hand man to Bam Margera and one of the stars of Jackass. One could say Ryan wasn’t playing with a full deck of cards, especially since he died stunt racing while highly intoxicated (read, drunk off his rocker) in the approximate same spot where he almost killed himself and Bam Margera while sober in 1996 with a roll. His loss was still felt though and his friends and fans cried their hearts out at the loss.
Peter Falk (83- complications of Alzheimer’s): I was never a fan of Columbo, but Peter Falk has contributed to so many other things that I did and do love. Be it as the grandfather and narrator in The Princess Bride or he starring roles in Arthur Hiller’s The In-Laws and John Cassavete’s Big Trouble and even the quirky Jeff Goldblum/Cyndi Lauper Vibes I have no choice to admit I admire and respect him as an actor, personality and presence.
Anne Francis (80- cancer): One of the most beautiful and popular actresses of the 1950’s, she became a perennial character actress through the 60’s and worked regularly until the late 90’s in film and television. In 1965 she starred in her own detective show, Honey West, the first show of its kind.
Michael Gough (94- illness/natural causes): Highly talented character actor whose fame was mostly in England he has held many notable roles, including appearing in some classic Hammer films. What a strange coincindence to lose three major players of Hammer in one year including writer James Sangster and director Don Sharp. Michael Gough went on from Hammer films to perform on Doctor Who, and many other minor, small but important film roles. To most he will be remembered as Alfred Pennyworth in the 90’s Batman films, which featured three different Batmen, two Harvey Dents, but one and only one Alfred. Beyond that he continued to work in various roles up until 2010. One of those actors who faces and voice you can’t forget.
Yoshio Harada (71- pneumonia during cancer): Only known to fans of Japanese cinema as he never made the American transition, he was one of those go to guys for some of the most classic Japanese films that are lesser known Internationally other than to those who truly follow. Nonetheless, his impact on cinema appearing in films greatly loved by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Quentin Tarrantino can not be ignored.
David Hess (75- heart attack): Musician, song writer, and actor. Cult film fans would recognize him as Krug from The Last House on the Left. He also wrote the songs, Speedy Gonzalez made famous by Pat Boone and Come Along made famous by Elvis Presley.
Wyatt Knight (56- suicide by gun): Best known as the badboy Tommy from the Porky’s series, this marginally successful young actor decided to end his own life after years of pain from treatment for cancer.
Andrew Laszlo (85- undisclosed): This photographer turned cinematographer made movies beautiful. As DP on such classics as The Warriors, First Blood and Newsies, his understanding of light, color, scenery, shadow, exposure and more helped bring to life these films in exhilarating ways. He seemed to had retired in 1992 after Newsies, a damn shame.
Len Lesser (88- pneumonia): This consistent and steady character actor worked since the 50’s, appearing in so many shows, westerns and stage productions it’s almost a shame, his “fame” as it would be didn’t come until playing Leo on “Seinfeld” and then Garvin of “Everybody Love’s Raymond”. A man with such screen presence and such a voice should’ve been a major player, the lead or co-starring in a sitcom long before, not just one part here, one part there, but that’s acting and that’s the acting life. Sometimes, despite talent and constant work, the big break never comes and the small break comes late in life. You take what you can get, feh… which is probably how Len Lesser thought and what he brought to his most famous role.
Sidney Lumet (86- lymphoma): Hands down one of the greatest directors of all time, period. It seems pointless to discuss him, this is a point where a career is truly understood by discussing selections of his filmography. I must note that on top of these films I’ll mention there were many more including incredible film adaptations of plays, including the Musical, The Wiz with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. SERPICO was one of the seminal 70’s films that changed the face of cinema forever, Lumet pulled a performance out Pacino rarely seen since and put a gritty true to life New York right on the screen. In DOG DAY AFTERNOON Pacino’s performance doesn’t have the same power, but Lumet’s brilliant deft skill followed by the brilliant NETWORK which broached many of the same topics from the other viewpoint, it his choices to bring these two particular tales to life on the big screen so close to each other in a the same time period. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD, his final film could easily be considered the best of his career. Bringing to life an I believe Black Listed screenplay by an untested by successful playwright, Lumet brought everything he had learned over his vast career to this simple, but poignant film about crime, love, betrayal, lies, truth, morals and ultimately family.
Sid Melton (94- natural causes): Working since the 1940’s Melton had many roles in many features and TV, but is notable as Charley Parker from “Danny Thomas”, Friendly Freddy from “Gomer Pyle”, Alf Munroe from “Green Acres” and much later in life as Sophia’s husband Salvatore in “Golden Girls” flashbacks.
Cynthia Myers (61- undisclosed): Extremely sexy Playboy playmate.of 1968. Brunette. 39 D. All woman! She also appeared in Beyond The Valley of the Dolls.
Charles Napier (75- unspecified): A character actor starting in the late 60’s, Napier appeared in Russ Meyer films, followed by tons of TV shows and minor bits in films. Then he got the bad guy lead in Rambo and everything changed. While he never landed another ole just as big as Murdock, his voice led credence to one of the most under appreciated awesome cartoons ever in The Critic and his face and voice were an unmistakable presence in anything he appeared in. This 1985 article by Roger Ebert paints a great picture of Napier.
John Neville (88- complications of Alzheimer’s): One of the greatest British actors of stage in the 50’s, a time period I personally have read a lot up on and wish I had been alive to see. True international acclaim and noteworthiness did not come his way till being cast as the titular character in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He would gain greater recognition as The Well Manicured Man in both the X-Files TV show and first X-Files film. A true actor’s actor, Neville was something to behold, which one care purely see in Munchausen. A pitch perfect performance he holds his own and overpowers such folks as Eric Idle and Robin Williams.
Patrice O’Neal (41- stroke): One of the funniest standups in recent years, I absolutely loved him on Shorties Watching Shorties. I loved his stand up too, and there’s one more hilarious factor of Patrice that most people don’t realize. For two years he was a member of WWE creative. I’m not sure what bits he came up with, but I bet if there was anything actually legitimately funny and not just distasteful and juvenile from 2000-2002 on RAW or Smackdown, Patrice was responsible for it.
Pete Postlethwaite (64- cancer): One of the finest character and stage actors England ever produced, America didn’t truly get to experience the excellence and awesomeness that was Pete Postlethwaite until Last of the Mohicans, followed by In The Name of the Father. He then wowed audience as one of the most important players in “The Usual Suspects” and since then has appeared in many films. In 2010 alone he had small, but very important roles in Clash of the Titans, Inception and The Town. His impact on film with his curiously interesting features, perfect timing as an actor and immense presence shall be surely missed.
Andy Rooney (92- surgery complications): The voice of some kind of reason for over sixty years going back to the days when he only wrote, but did not deliver his words, Rooney was more Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher than they Hitchens and Maher combined. Andy Rooney was their love child despite he being the one who gave birth to them. Andy Rooney was allowed to speak his mind and it was a controversial, liberal, open minded, religion hating, republican despising, freedom of speech loving mind. It was only because he was left with a few minutes on 60 minutes to deliver his work instead of entire specials or an entire hour of moderated programming that his figure didn’t reach the fervor of these others. He was Andy Rooney to most, that cute old grumpy old man who spoke his mind at the end of sixty minutes. For conservatives I bet they just thought he was cute, but if the real world really paid attention, they’d of known Andy Rooney wasn’t cute… he was real.
Jane Russell (89- respiratory failure): Another beautiful of the silver screen in the 50’s, co starring alongside Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum at the height of her career. I do not believe I would’ve gotten along very well with Jane Russell though. She was a card carrying, god fearing, bible thumping, bigoted, conservative, narrowminded republican and all this by her own admittance. Also she loved to drink. Also by her own admittance. Gotta give it to her though, she was hot and she was a good actress.
Ken Russell (84- stroke): Truly a genius director, here was a man who was able to bring Pete Townsend Tommy to the big screen and present some of the weirdest, cult films of all time. While his career goes beyond these from 1971 till 1989 he directed, wrote and adapted some of the most insane stories one could find. Adapting and re-conceiving the works of men like John Whitting’s play based on Aldous Huxley’s work, turning the rock opera only staged previously as orchestral production into a full fledged film, and creating what is considered one of the great films in scifi psychotropic cinema in Paddy Chevaskey’s ALTERED STATES. Personally for me it his realization of Stephen Volk’s only successful screenplay GOTHIC, taking the two works of Byron and Shelley on that infamous night where Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born and turning them into disturbing feast, but even more so the film of some of my childhood fantasies and nightmares his bringing to life of Bram Stoker’s LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM. This 1989 feature seemed to feel like Ken Russell’s coup de grâce. Throughout the 90’s and up till 2000 he would deliver very disappointing productions or even productions that were never released internationally and in most cases even theatrically. Lucky there’s that slew of disturbing flicks which started with THE DEVILS, continuing into LISTZOMANIA and even CRIMES OF PASSION to remember him by.
Bert Schneider (78- natural causes): Co-Founder of BBS Films. Creator of The Monkees and Producer of The Monkees’ Head, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicolson, and Peter Bogdonavich’s The Last Picture Show. A true pop-culture legend and a man who actually helped change film, music and the world. The avenues he opened in developing The Monkees alone is a benchmark of what would become a constant existence in pop-culture. The created super group which would find a way to break out of the confines of their conception and become monumental successes despite their beginnings. Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, The Spice Girls, and so would never been ideas without The Monkees and therefore without Bert Schneider. The Monkee’s of course also would not have been successful without the immense talent of each member or the song writing talents of Neil Diamond and Andy Kim, among others, but all that still rests of Bert’s shoulders as a producer, making these original decisions and choices for the group including hiring Don Kirshner. Following that, it was his financial backing, spokesman-ship and support that allowed films like Easy Rider and Last Picture Show to be more than just haphazard concepts from talented, but unsteady writer/performers. The successes of those projects I’m sure inspired bigger studios to take chances they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Bubba Smith (66- heart disease): Obviously I don’t care about his obviously amazing sports career, as the only sports I care about are extreme, puglism, and martial arts, but as Moses Hightower in the “Police Academy” franchise he cemented himself in the echelon of great characters. He also got to perform in some super obscure, but cult fame shows like Blue Thunder.
Leonard Stone (87- cancer): Best known as the father of Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, this prolific character actor played multiple roles in everything from “The Outer Limits” to “Perry Mason” to “Dragnet” to “Barney Miller”. He even had a recurring role as a judge on L.A. Law.
Elizabeth Taylor (79- congestive heart failure): What does one say about one of the most amazing and ravishing actresses of her time or possibly for centuries to come? Two Academy Awards, SAG Lifetime Achievement, Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement, AFI Lifetime Achievement, President’s Medal and on top of all that, she was also awarded Dame Commander. The love to two of entertainment’s greatest gifts Producer Michael Todd and actor Richard Burton. Activist, humanitarian and real person, ignore her scandals, her controversies, everything else… Liz Taylor was the real deal.
Yvette Vickers (73 or 74- mummified body found in 2010, heart failure): The other woman in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, she was also a Playboy playmate photographed in 1959 by Russ Meyer. The circumstances behind her death are as fascinating as her short time of fame.
John Wood (81- natural causes): British actor who had two very notable 80’s roles in War Games and Jumpin’ Jack Flash. To discuss either role would basically be considered spoilers. That is how tantamount he is to both films.
Actors like Stone, Postlewaithe, Melton, Lesser, Napier, Wood and Gough are the rock that holds films and television aloft, without them, the stars would never shine, all should take their hat off to these men and like Andrew Gold suggests “Thank them for being a friend”.