Category: RIP

RIP: Leon Spinks

Leon Spinks, Olympic Gold medal boxer and former Heavyweight Boxing Champ of the World, died yesterday at age 67 from prostrate cancer.

Leon Spinks won three consecutive national AAU light heavyweight boxing championships.  He was a light heavyweight bronze medalist in the 1974 World Championships, a light heavyweight silver medalist in the 1975 Pan Am games, and a light heavyweight gold medalist in the 1976 Olympics.

Spinks was best known for his upset victory of Mohammad Ali which catapulted him in the national spotlight.  Spinks got the opportunity to face Ali after just 8 professional fights.  Ali was looking at Spinks as a tune-up for a tougher rematch against Ken Norton.  Spinks was a relatively inexperienced pro who had fought most of his career as a light-heavyweight.  Surprisingly, Spinks out-boxed Ali over the course of 15 rounds and won a split-decision victory!

The boxing commission wanted Spinks to next face Ken Norton who was the number 1 contender for the title.  Spinks refused, instead opting to give Ali a rematch.  Spinks was striped of the title.  Ali came to the rematch in shape (no longer under-estimating Spinks) and easily won.  Spinks continued fighting in both the heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions,  In 1981, Spinks fought Larry Holmes for the Heavyweight Championship, losing by TKO in the 3rd.

I remember watching the first Spinks/Ali fight and being surprised at Leon’s performance.  As the fight wore on it became clear that history was being made.  I also was impressed that Spinks was willing to give up the title to give Ali a chance to avenge the loss.  He said he wanted to return the opportunity that Ali had given him.

Leon Spinks won three consecutive national AAU light heavyweight championships.  He was a light heavyweight bronze medalist in the 1974 World Championships, a light heavyweight silver medalist in the 1975 Pan Am games, and a light heavyweight gold medalist in the 1976 Olympics.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Leon Spinks’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Mike Henry

Mike Henry, best known for his roles as Tarzan in three feature films and Sheriff Bufford T. Justice’s son in three Smokey and the Bandit movies has died.  Henry died at age 84 on January 8th, from chronic traumatic encephalopathy after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Henry was a standout linebacker at USC and went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1958 – 1961) and the Los Angeles Rams (1962 – 1964).  Henry had played a few minor roles prior to his retirement from football and in 1966 he got the lead as Tarzan in three feature films.  

After playing Tarzan, Henry alternated between guest spots on television and co-starring roles in feature films.  Mike Henry appeared in an episode of Burt Reynold’s series, Dan August and also had a role in Reynold’s feature film, The Longest Yard.  Henry also appeared twice in Charlton Heston films (Soylent Green and Skyjacked) and twice in John Wayne movies (The Green Berets and Rio Lobo).  Most fans may know Henry best as Jackie Gleason’s sidekick in three Smokey and the Bandit films where Henry played Sheriff Bufford T. Justice’s dimwit son, Junior Justice.

I first saw Henry in his Tarzan trilogy which was a new take on the King of the Jungle.  Now Tarzan was an educated, almost James Bond type character.  It was a shocking change, but one that was interesting.  Henry definitely had the physique to play Tarzan.  After the three films, Henry was offered the chance to play Tarzan in the television series that was being developed, but he declined.

In 1988, Henry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and he retired from acting.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Henry’s family, friends and fans.

 

RIP: Hal Holbrook

It has been confirmed that Hal Holbrook, award-winning actor, director and author died on January 23, 2021 at the age of 95.  Holbrook is best known for his one man show portraying Mark Twain which he began in the 1950s and continued well into this century.  In 1966, Holbrook’s portrayal of Twain won him the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.

In addition to his stage work, Holbrook could often be found adding class to television and movie roles.  Holbrook was a 5 time Primetime Emmy Award winner.  Holbrook’s IMDb resume includes 136 acting credits.  Some of my favorite Hal Holbrook roles were in Magnum Force, All the President’s Men, Capricorn One, The West Wing, Lincoln, and Sons of Anarchy.  Whenever Hal Holbrook appeared on the screen the tv show or movie got at least a little bit better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Hal Holbrook’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Cloris Leachman

Cloris Leachman, whose acting career spanned over 70 years, died yesterday of natural causes at the age of 94.  It is hard to say the role that she was best known for since she had so many memorable and award-winning parts.  Leachman was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmy Awards (earning her the record for the most nominations).  She won 8 Primetime Emmy Awards (tying her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most actress wins in Emmy history.)  Leachman also won an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Daytime Emmy Award!

My first memory of Cloris Leachman is from her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Her character was so popular that Leachman played her in two spin-off series; first on Rhoda and then in her own show simply titled Phyllis.  Although my first memory of Cloris Leachman is from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, there is no doubt that I’d seen Leachman in many other television guest appearances.   Her tv credits include dozens and dozens of appearances on popular shows… everything from Lassie to The Twilight Zone.

Cloris Leachman wasn’t just limited to television roles.  Her appearances in Mel Brooks’ films were always funny, welcome additions. Her role as Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein is a classic.  Who can forget her first major movie role as Christina Bailey in Kiss Me Deadly?  Leachman also appeared in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Picture Show (where she won the Oscar and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress), High Anxiety and many other features.

Cloris Leachman has nearly 300 acting credits on her resume and she made everything she was in better by her presence.  She will be missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go our to Cloris Leachman’s family, friends and fans.

 

    

RIP: Larry King

Larry King died this morning.  He was 87.  King had been hospitalized in December for complications from Covid-19.  King, who was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger worked on radio and television for over 60 years.

King became a national celebrity when his Larry King Live interview program on CNN went viral in 1985.  King hosted the show for 25 years and interviewed just about everyone who was making headlines.  That was the joy of King’s program, one night he might be talking to a top political figure, the next night a celebrity or psychic.

King became so popular and well known that he began to appear in movies and television roles (hundreds listed on IMDb) usually playing himself.  Throughout his career King earned an Emmy, two Peabody awards and 10 Cable Ace awards.  When King left CNN he continued to work in television with Larry King Now (2012-2020) on Hulu and Politicking with Larry King (2013 until his death).

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Larry King’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Gregory Sierra

Although Gregory Sierra died on January 4, 2021, from cancer, his death wasn’t made public knowledge until yesterday.  Sierra, who had a long career acting in television and movie roles was probably best known for his co-starring role on Barney Miller.

Sierra made guest appearances on dozens and dozens of television shows with reoccurring roles on The Flying Nun, Sanford & Son, Soap, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Murder She Wrote and more.  Sierra’s major theatrical film roles were in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Papillon, The Towering Inferno, Vampires and Vic (written and directed by Sage Stallone).

I always enjoyed tv shows and movies a bit more when Gregory Sierra appeared.   Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gregory Sierra’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Steve Carver

Steve Carver, best known for directing action films, died yesterday of a heart attack.  Mr. Carver was 75.

After graduating from college (BA from Cornell University and MFA from Washington University), Carver worked as a cameraman for the Wide World of Sports for the St. Louis Cardinals, taught at local colleges and made documentaries.  One of his documentaries earned him a spot in the American Film Institute.  Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, one of the short films Carver created there, was well received and led to Carver meeting and working with Roger Corman.

Carver cut trailers for Corman’s New World pictures and began writing scripts.  Corman then gave Carver the opportunity to direct The Arena starring Pam Grier.  The success of that film led Corman to give Carter the helm of Big Bad Mama starring Angie Dickinson, William Shatner and Tom Skerritt.  The success of Big Bad Mama led to Carver directing CaponeCapone starred Ben Gazarra, Harry Guardino, Susan Blakely, Sylvester Stallone and John Cassavetes.

The success of these films made Carver the potential director for Billy Jack Goes to Washington.  That fell through when Tom Laughlin decided to direct it himself.  Carver was instead hired to replace director Burt Kennedy on Drum which starred Warren Oates, Ken Norton, Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto.  Although the film was successful, Carver didn’t enjoy the experience.

Carver had ideas for a couple of films but they fell through. Instead Carver went on to direct David Carradine and Brenda Vaccaro in Fast Charlie… the Moonbeam Rider and Steel starring Lee Majors and Jennifer O’Neal.

In 1981, Carver directed Chuck Norris, Christopher Lee and Richard Roundtree in An Eye for an Eye.  Two years later, Carver reteamed with Chuck Norris for Lone Wolf McQuade (co-starring David Carradine, Barbara Carrera and Leon Isaac Kennedy).  Both of these films were highly successful, but Carver was becoming less enchanted with Hollywood and more interested in photography.  Carter made six more films, but in 1995 opened his own photography studio and left directing behind.

Thanks to Steve Carver for many hours of entertainment.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

R.I.P. – Dawn Wells

Dawn Wells, best known as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island died yesterday from Covid-related complications at the age of 82.  

Wells went to Hollywood after she competed in the 1960 Miss America pageant as Miss Nevada.  There she found success making guest appearances on nearly every major television show including Wagon Train, Cheyenne, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza and others.  In 1964, Wells won the role of Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island.  The series ran for 3 years and 98 episodes. Surprisingly Gilligan’s Island gained even more popularity when the series ended and went into syndication.

After Gilligan’s Island, Wells continued to have success with guest appearances on other television shows including The Invaders, The Wild, Wild West and Bonanza.  Wells also appeared in theatrical releases including Winterhawk, The Town that Dreaded Sundown and Return to Boggy Creek.

Due to the popularity of Gilligan’s Island in syndication, Over a decade after the series was cancelled, Wells returned to play Mary Ann in three made-for-tv movies (Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island).  Wells even voiced Mary Ann (and Ginger) on the cartoon series Gilligan’s Planet.  Wells continued to stay active appearing on tv shows and movies through 2019. 

By all accounts Dawn Wells was really as sweet and loveable as her character Mary Ann.  Its funny to think that when I was a kid, you liked either Mary Ann or Ginger and I was always on the Mary Ann bandwagon.  So were most of my friends.  That’s because we were on the Dawn Wells’ bandwagon.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dawn Wells’ family, friends and fans. 

 

RIP: William Link

William Link, best known as co-creator of Columbo, passed away on Sunday, December 27th from congestive heart failure.  Mr. Link was 87.

William Link often partnered with Richard Levinson to write, create and produce everything from radio scripts to teleplays and feature films.  In addition to co-creating Columbo, Link along with Levinson and Peter S. Fischer created the popular and long-running television program Murder, She Wrote.  Link and Levinson also created Mannix in addition to other tv series.  Link and Levinson’s television movies included My Sweet Charlie, That Certain Summer, and (my favorite) The Execution of Private Slovak starring a young Martin Sheen. Their scripts for feature films included The Hindenburg; Rollercoaster; and Steve McQueen’s last film The Hunter.

Link and Levinson won numerous awards throughout their long partnership including two Emmys, two Golden Globes, four Edgar Allan Poe Awards and many others.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to William Link’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Sir Thomas Sean Connery

Sean Connery has died at the age of 90.

Best known for his portrayal of James Bond, Connery was the first actor to play the character in a major motion picture.  Connery starred in seven Bond films and was widely considered the best actor to ever play 007.  Connery was much more than James Bond. With over 100 acting credits on his resume, Connery made every movie he was in better by his presence.

In 1987, Connery won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone in The Untouchables. Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July, 2000. Connery was popular in Scotland and throughout the world.  In 2004, he won a poll as The Greatest Living Scot.  In 2011, another survey named him as Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure. People magazine named Connery the Sexiest Man Alive in 1989 when he was 59 years old. Then in 1999, People magazine named Connery the Sexiest Man of the Century. He received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

When I think of Sean Connery, like most folks, my thoughts go to James Bond.  For my money, Connery was the coolest of all Bonds and set the standards for all who followed.  But even if Connery had never played Bond, look at all the movies that he made that entertained us.  My personal favorite Connery movies include: The Wind and the Lion, Robin and Marian, Outland, Highlander, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Rock and (even) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sir Thomas Sean Connery’s family, friends and fans.  

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.