RIP James Randi aka The Amazing Randi

James Randi aka The Amazing Randi died on Tuesday at the age of 92.  Mr. Randi began his career as a magician (that’s where the Amazing part of his name came from).  He was a different kind of magician though.

Sure, he could perform mind-reading stunts, bend spoons just as those who claim to do so via mental powers, escape from padlocked chains and the like, but The Amazing Randi claimed no supernatural powers.  In fact he offered his own money (eventually getting the amount to one million dollars) own money to anyone who could show scientific evidence of supernatural powers.  No one ever collected.

James Randi became famous for debunking spiritualists, mind readers and the like who claimed supernatural powers to defraud people.  He had his own radio show, television specials and was a popular guest on television shows.  Randi was also the author of ten books.  By all accounts he was a fun guy to be around.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Randi’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Conchata Ferrell

Conchata Ferrell passed away yesterday as a result of complications following a cardiac arrest.  She was 77.

Best known as Berta on Two and a Half Men, this is just one of her 131 acting credits!  Check out all the appearances.  What a career, but even if Conchata had only been on Two and Half Men, her career would have been made.  She was perfect in that role.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Conchata Ferrell’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Mac Davis

Mac Davis, the multi-talented singer-songwriter and actor died yesterday at age 78 from complications of a recent heart surgery.

Davis was an award-winning song writer who first came to notice for writing the popular Elvis Presley songs, In the Ghetto, Don’t Cry Daddy and A Little Less Conversation.  Other singers such as Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Perry Como, and Helen Reddy (to name just a few) were happy to cover Mac Davis songs.

Davis wrote hits for himself such as Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, Stop and Smell the Roses and One Hell of a Woman.  In 1974, Davis was named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year.  This success led to The Mac Davis Show which ran from 1974-1976.  Davis caught the acting bug and began his career in North Dallas Forty.  Davis would spend the rest of his life singing and acting alternating between movies and television and live concerts.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mac Davis’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jacqueline Stallone

Jacqueline Stallone passed away this morning at the age of 98.  Best known as the mother of Sylvester and Frank Stallone, she was much more than just the parent of famous brothers.

Here is part of what Frank posted on his Instagram

This morning my brothers and I lost our mother Jackie Stallone . She was the mother to four children, Tommy, Sylvester, Frankie and my late sister Toni Ann. She was a remarkable woman working out everyday full of spunk and fearless . She died in her sleep as she had wished. It was hard not to like her, she was very eccentric and flamboyant person.

Jackie, as she was known, was indeed a remarkable woman.  She was always into fitness and training.  As a young woman she performed as a trapeze artist!  She was also a nightclub dancer.  Jackie Stallone was the first woman to have a daily exercise and fitness show in Washington, D.C. Later in her career she owned Barbella’s, a gym for women.

Jackie became a popular guest on talk shows where she discussed not only her famous sons but also her astrology books and psychic hotline.  She also became involved with GLOW – the Gorgeous Women of Wrestling!

Jackie Stallone was a powerhouse.  Frank was right in describing her as eccentric, flamboyant, fearless and hard not to like. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jacqueline Stallone’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Ronald “Khalis” Bell (Kool & the Gang Co-Founder)

Ronald “Khalis” Bell, co-founder of Kool & the Gang, died yesterday of an undisclosed cause at the age of 68.  Bell was a singer, songwriter, producer and saxophonist.  Just a few of the songs Bell composed, produced and performed include Celebration, Get Down On It, Jungle Boogie, Cherish, Hollywood Swinging and Summer Madness.  Celebration is in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame and Bell is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Kool & the Gang, which Bell co-founded with his brother, Robert in 1969 released their first album in 1970. Khalis and his brother remained in the band which underwent many group member changes over the years but still continued to produce music their fans loved.

Ronald “Khalis” Bell, along with Kool & the Gang, created music that brings back great memories.  I was in Junior High when Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging broke big.  Both songs still bring a smile to my face.  When I was in high school and college they continued to be a part of fun times with songs like Ladies Night, Celebration and more.  Bell’s song Summer Madness was even featured in Rocky.   Their hits continued in the 80s with songs like Too Hot, Joanna, Cherish (a great love song), and Fresh.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ronald “Khalis” Bell’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – James “Kamala” Harris

James Harris better known as the professional wrestler Kamala the Ugandan Giant has died at the age of 70 due to complications from Covid-19.

Harris began his pro wrestling career in 1978 after meeting Hall of Fame Wrestler Bobo Brazil.  In his early years Harris wrestled under the names, Ugly Bear Harris, Big Jim Harris and Bad News Harris.  In 1982, Harris signed with promoter Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association.  Harris and Lawler created the Kamala character — a giant headhunter brought to the US from the jungles of Uganda.

Harris wrestled for all of the major companies and was a fan favorite.  When my sons and nephews were young, I took them to a live wrestling event where Kamala was one of the featured stars.  I overheard the boys telling my youngest son, Chris, that Kamala was a cannibal and a headhunter who ate little kids.  They went on to tell Chris that if Kamala got hungry he would begin slapping his belly and then climb out of the ring to look for a meal.  (Slapping his belly was a signature move for Kamala and he did it in every match.)

Needless to say when Kamala came out to wrestle Chris seemed to move a bit closer to me with eyes as big as saucers watching the Ugandan giant enter the ring.  Sure enough, part way through the match he began to slap his belly.  Chris grabbed my hand, and said, “C’mon dad.  Time to go, Kamala’s getting ready to look for a meal!”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Kamala Harris’ family, friends and fans.

RIP – Reni Santoni

Reni Santoni, 81, died on August 1, 2020, at hospice after a long illness.  Sanotni appeared in over 100 film and television roles.  Most folks probably know Santoni best from his role as Poppie on Seinfeld.  My favorite Santoni performances were in Dirty Harry and Cobra but it was always a pleasure when Santoni appeared on any show or movie.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

RIP – Wilford Brimley

Wilford Brimley died yesterday at the age of 85 after being hospitalized for two months with kidney problems.

I first saw Wilfred Brimley in an uncredited role with John Wayne in True Grit.  At that point I had no idea who Wilfred Brimley was, but that would all change with his tv appearances in Kung Fu, The Waltons, How the West was Won and The Wild, Wild West Revisited.  After that it wasn’t surprising to see Brimley popping up in movies (The Electric Horseman, Brubaker, Absence of Malice) or television (Walker, Texas Ranger; Seinfeld).

My favorite Wilfred Brimley roles were in The Thing and Hard Target, but it didn’t matter the role or movie, Wilfred Brimley always made it better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Wilfred Brimley’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – John Saxon

John Saxon died yesterday of pneumonia. He was 83. Saxon is best known to fans for his role as Roper in Enter the Dragon, but that was just one of his nearly 200 acting credits. 

Saxon began is career in the mid 1950s playing teen idol parts.  In the 60s, Saxon alternated between movies and guest starring television roles.  In 1972, Saxon co-starred with Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd and the following year with Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon.  Saxon continued to alternate between movie and tv roles for the rest of his career.  Any time Saxon was in the production, you know it got just better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to John Saxon’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – Denny O’Neil

Denny O’Neil died yesterday at his home after a long illness.  Mr. O’Neil was 81.  Denny O’Neil was a comic book writer, editor, teacher, novelist and screenwriter for television and movie projects. 

Mr. O’Neil is often credited with steering Batman from the cartoonish character of earlier comics and the television series to a more serious creature of the night.  It was also O’Neil who wrote the classic, award-winning Green Lantern / Green Arrow issues that proved comics could shine a spotlight on issues of the day and still entertain.  He revitalized The Question for DC comics.  He served as a mentor and editor to Frank Miller on Daredevil.  He wrote the famous Superman vs Muhammad Ali comic.  He did all of these things and so much more.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Denny O’Neil’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jerry Stiller

Jerry Stiller died today from natural causes.  He was 92.  Most folks know Jerry Stiller as the father of either Ben Stiller, George Costanza .  Ben is, of course, Mr. Stiller’s real-life son and George was his son on Seinfeld.  Others may recognize Jerry Stiller as Arthur Spooner, Carrie Heffernan’s dad on The King of Queens.

I first knew Jerry Stiller as one half of the comedy team Stiller and Meara.  You’ve probably figured out that he made up the Stiller half of the duo, but did you know his wife, Ann Meara, made up the other 50%?  I can’t tell you how many times I saw them turn up on The Ed Sullivan Show and other variety series.  I enjoyed their humorous routines. It was (and still is) unusual to see a husband and wife comedy team.  Especially one that lasts over 60 years.

Mr. Stiller’s resume contains 115 acting credits but it was his roles on Seinfeld and The King of Queens that I’ll remember best.  Often Jerry Stiller got the biggest laughs and considering the talent involved that’s saying a lot.  From all accounts Jerry Stiller was a humble, giving man and one that made everything he appeared in better.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

RIP: Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad died today at age 84.  Conrad best known for acting was also a singer, writer and director.  Although he starred in feature films, it was Conrad’s television roles that made him a star.  First with Hawaiian Eye, then his biggest hit, The Wild, Wild West and later The D.A., Black Sheep Squadron, A Man Called Sloane and High Mountain Rangers.

But it was The Wild, Wild West that Conrad’s fans loved the most.  Perfectly cast as James West who partnered with Artemus Gordon (played by Ross Martin, also perfectly cast) as spies in the old west.  The show ran for four seasons and was still doing well in the ratings when it was cancelled by CBS in an effort to reduce network violence.  The Wild, Wild West was so popular in re-runs that two tv movies were made over a decade later.

Conrad was a member of the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame and winner of the Distinguished Service Award in Broadcasting.

On a personal note, the death of Robert Conrad is heartbreaking.   I can’t tell you how many times I pretended to be James West as a kid or how many times I’ve watched each episode of The Wild, Wild West.  It’s still set to be recorded daily on my dvr (and I own the complete series on dvd).  A huge piece of my childhood died with him.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert Conrad’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway, the multi-talented actor who appeared in movies, on television and the stage died Wednesday, February 5th of a heart attack.

I first became aware of Mr. Conway when I saw him in back-to-back Sylvester Stallone films.  First up was FIST where Conway played Vince Doyle, a local mobster who provides Johnny Kovak (Stallone) with some “muscle” against the trucking company’s strike breakers.  A few months later Conway and Stallone appeared together again, this time in Paradise Alley.  Conway was a small town gangster but this time he and Stallone were adversaries.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Conway had already made appearances on Broadway, television and films!  Conway was still acting in movies and television as well as doing voice work for commercials, trailers and documentaries up until his death at age 77.   Some of Conway’s best known roles include his work in Mystic River, The Quick and the Dead, 13 Days and Gettysburg.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kevin Conway’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas died today at the age of 103.  His son, Michael Douglas posted (in part):

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” son Michael Douglas wrote on his Instagram account. “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the Golden Age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

Kirk Douglas was an actor, a director, a producer and writer.  He was always the coolest guy in the room.  Douglas made movies that he believed in, not always taking the roles that paid the most or had the best chance for box-office appeal.  It didn’t matter if Douglas played a hero or villain, he had audience appeal.  Douglas was a three-time Oscar nominee for Best Actor and received an Honorary Oscar in 1996.

Some of my favorite Kirk Douglas movies include: Spartacus; Out of the Past; Detective Story; Along the Great Divide; The War Wagon (thanks to memories of watching it with my Grandpa) and Oscar (with Sly Stallone.  Years earlier, Douglas was set to star as Col. Troutman in First Blood but it didn’t work out.).

Kirk Douglas was indeed a living legend.  103 years is a long life and Douglas lived it to the fullest.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his friends and his fans.

RIP – Shawn Surface

I just learned that my buddy Shawn Surface has died of a massive heart attack.  Shawn’s brother Paul posted the news on Facebook a few hours ago.  I’m saddened and surprised.  Shawn had been in poor health for a few years, but his recent posts had been positive and it seemed Shawn was doing better.

Comic fans in Florida will probably remember Shawn from his appearances at conventions throughout the state.  Shawn was always smiling and upbeat.  He was a fun guy to talk with and his art always had a joy to it.  Shawn is probably best known for his art on Bubba the Redneck Werewolf, a comic series turned into a low-budget film.  Surface was also planning a creator-owned series of his own called Mandi.

Over the years I commissioned Shawn to do pieces for my Stallone-themed sketch collection.  You can see several of them here if you’re inclined to do so.

Shawn died way too young.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to Shawn’s family, friends and fans.