Category: RIP

RIP: Billie Hayes

Billie Hayes who performed on Broadway, in movies and on television died on April 29th at the age of 96.  Her death from natural causes was announced today by her family.

Mrs. Hayes first Broadway appearance was in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces in 1956. She was then cast as Mammy Yokum in the Broadway version of Li’l Abner.  When Li’l Abner was turned into a feature film, Hayes reprised her role as Mammy Yokum.

Billy Hayes first television role was on The Monkees.  Her next television role was the one she became best known for, as Witchiepoo on HR Pufnstuff (tv series) and in the Pufnstuff movie.  After that series ended Hayes appeared once again as Mammy Yokum in the Li’l Abner tv movie.  Hayes went on to make guest appearances on Bewitched, Lidsville (as a series co-star), Donny and Marie, Murder She Wrote, General Hospital and many other shows.  In 1981, Hayes also began doing voice work (on shows such as The Flintstone Comedy Show, The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, Darkwing Duck, Talespin to name just a few).  She continued doing voice work until she retired in 2016.

Not many performers have a career as long as Billie Hayes.  She was able to successfully transition between stage, feature films and television.  I, like many of her fans, knew her best from her role as Witchiepoo.  I was ten when the series premiered.  My brother and I got into trouble for calling my youngest sister, Witchiepoo.  It’s funny the things you remember.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Billie Hayes’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Johnny Crawford

Johnny Crawford, best known as one of the original Mouseketeers and for his role on The Rifleman, died yesterday at the age of 75.  Mr. Crawford had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, COVID-19 and pneumonia, but his cause of death was not specified.

Crawford first rose to fame as one of Walt Disney’s original Mouseketeers.  He would then go on to play roles on The Lone Ranger, The Frank Sinatra Show, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Danny Thomas Show, Wagon Train and many other popular television shows before getting his co-starring role on The Rifleman with Chuck Connors.  At the age of 13, Johnny Crawford was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal of Mark McCain, on The Rifleman.  Crawford and Connors developed a friendship that would continue throughout their lives.  When The Rifleman ended, Crawford appeared on an episode of Connor’s follow-up series, Branded.  Johnny Crawford even spoke at Chuck Connors’ funeral decades later.

Johnny Crawford had a brief career as a singing star.  He had four top forty Billboard hits on Del-FI records.  Throughout his life Crawford acted in television and feature film roles, and in 1992, he formed the JCO (Johnny Crawford Orchestra) which performed at festivals and special events.  Johnny Crawford was an extremely talented individual with a career that spanned over 60 years of performances on stage, television and silver screen.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Johnny Crawford’s family, fans and friends.

RIP: Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman, lyricist of million-selling hit records, died yesterday at the age of 73.  No cause of death was released.

Steinman is best known for his collaborations with Meat Loaf on the albums Bat Out of Hell (1977) and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993).  Bat Out of Hell produced two top ten hits: “Two of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and became one of the best-selling albums ever.  Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell released one single: “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” that spent five weeks at No. 1.  Steinman also penned the music and book for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical which ran from February through April in Manchester, England.

Steinman may have been known best for his two collaborations with Meat Loaf, but he composed and produced hits with many other artists including…

  • “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” performed by Air Supply
  • “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (which he also produced) performed by Bonnie Tyler
  • “Nowhere Fast” performed by Fire, Inc. for the Streets of Fire Soundtrack
  • “Left in the Dark” performed by Barbara Streisand
  • “Hulk Hogan’s Theme” for the WWE
  • “Holding Out for a Hero” (which he also produced and co-wrote with Dean Pitchford) performed by Bonnie Tyler
  • “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” performed by Celine Dion
  • and many more.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim Steinman’s family, friends and fans.

RIP – Felix Silla


Felix Silla, whose acting career spanned 55 years, died yesterday after after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  While you may not instantly recognize Felix Silla’s name, you’ll be surprised at the number of roles you saw him play.

One of his most famous was as Cousin Itt in the tv series The Adams Family.  That wasn’t the only popular show that featured an appearance by Felix Silla.  He also had roles on: Bonanza, The Monkees, Petticoat Junction, The Girl from UNCLE and Star Trek.  Sila appeared in the movies Point Blank and Planet of the Apes.  He followed those roles as a regular cast member of HR Puffinstuff.

Other television highlights include: Bewitched, Night Gallery, Mary Hartman, Battlestar Gallactica, a regular role on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Mork & Mindy, and Married with Children.  Movie highlights include: The Black Bird, Demon Seed, Kentucky Fried Movie, Under the Rainbow, The Sting II, Meatballs II, Spaceballs and Batman Returns.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Felix Silla’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jessica Walter

Jessica Walter, star of stage, television and movie screen for over 60 years died in her sleep on March 24th at the age of 80.  No cause of death was given.

I probably saw Jessica Walters for the first time in the premiere episode of Flipper.  I would have been five.  After that she appeared with regularity, guesting on many shows that I enjoyed: The Fugitive, The FBI, The Name of the Game, Mannix, The Immortal, Love American Style, Mission Impossible, Alias Smith & Jones and Medical Center — and those are just the shows I regularly watched, she appeared in many others.

Then in 1971, Jessica Walter appeared in the role that always comes first when I think of her.  She played Evelyn Draper, the psycho woman who becomes obsessed with Clint Eastwood in Play Misty for Me.  That role and that movie was well ahead of it’s time.  There’s a scene (and if you’ve seen the movie or the poster you know the one) where Walter literally caused me to yell out loud.  Thankfully, we were at the drive-in with just my family.  Walter was nominated for a  Best Actress Golden Globe for her performance.

Had Mrs. Walter’s only role been that in Play Misty For Me, it would have still warranted notice here.  After Play Misty For Me, Jessica Walter continued to alternate between television, feature films and stage roles always making everything she was in better for her being there.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jessica Walter’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Yaphet Kotto

Yaphet Kotto, whose acting career spanned 50 years on television and in feature films, died Sunday, March 14, 2021, at the age of 81.  No cause of death was given.

Kotto began his career in 1962 with a role in the feature film Nothing But a Man.  After that he alternated between roles in television and feature films.  It is hard to say which was Kotto’s best known role because he had so many.  Some would say it was when he played the villain, Mr. Big, in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die.  Others would point to his starring role as President Idi Amin in Raid on Entebbe.  Who can forget his standout performance as Parker in Alien?  Others would know Yaphet Kotto best from his role as Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street.

I probably first saw Yaphet Kotto in one of his many guest starring roles on television.  Mr. Kotto appeared on many of my favorite tv programs: Tarzan, The High Chaparral, Mannix, Daniel Boone, The Name of the Game, Gunsmoke, and Night Gallery.  Keep in mind, those were just the shows I watched, Yaphet Kotto appeared on many others.  Some of my favorite feature film performances by Yaphet Kotto include: Live and Let Die, Brubaker, The Running Man and of course, my all-time favorite Yaphet Kotto role, Parker in Alien.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Yaphet Kotto’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Henry Darrow

Henry Darrow, best known for his co-starring role as Manolito Montoya on the popular tv series, The High Chaparral, died yesterday at the age of 87.  No cause of death was disclosed.

Darrow began his acting career in 1959 and made memorable guest appearances on many shows before landing his signature part on The High Chaparral.  Some of Darrow’s appearances include roles on Wagon Train, The Outer Limits, The Wild, Wild West, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Daniel Boone, Mission Impossible and many others.  It was his role as Manolito where Darrow aligned with his signature character.

After The High Chaparral went off the air, Darrow continued to make guest appearances on television series, tv movies and the occasional feature film.  He also had regular roles on The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Harry O, The New Adventures of Zorro,  Zorro and Son, Me and Mom, Santa Barbara, Zorro, and The Bold and the Beautiful.  Henry Darrow was an actor who was always in demand because everything he appeared in became at least a little better.

I was a big Henry Darrow fan.  My grandfather would tune in to The High Chaparral weekly and Darrow’s Manilito was my favorite character on the show.  I was (and continue to be) pleased when Darrow turns up in any program I’m watching.

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

RIP: Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport, died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 66.  The announcement was made by his wife and no cause of death was given.  

Hagler, whose professional boxing record was 62 – 3 – 2, with 52 wins by knockout, dominated the middleweight division from the time he won the title on September 27, 1980 until his controversial split decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard on April 6, 1987.  Along the way, Hagler beat anyone they put in front of him including all the great middleweights of the era – Alan Minter, Vito Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and many others.

Hagler’s fight with Tommy Hearns lasted less than 3 rounds, but is considered by many fight fans to be not only the most exciting fight in boxing history, but it also contains the most exciting round ever.  Hagler won the fight by a TKO before the end of the third round.

Hagler lost the title in a controversial split decision to Sugar Ray Leonard.  Leonard who was warned for holding in every round, fought in spurts and did enough in two judges’ eyes to win.  Fight enthusiasts and reporters were split in their opinions as to who should have won the fight with an extremely slight majority favoring Hagler.  Although one would think that a title fight decided on such a razor-thin margin would demand an immediate rematch, it never happened.  Leonard announced his retirement, despite Hagler’s request for a rematch.  Hagler waited for the Leonard to change his mind, but when after 14 months that didn’t happen, Hagler officially retired.  A month later, Leonard announced a comeback against another fighter.  By this point, Hagler was done with boxing for good and moved to Italy where he starred in action movies.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler was named Fighter of the Decade (1980s) by Boxing Illustrated magazine.  He was the Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year for 1983 and 1985 and Ring Magazine’s Fighter of the Year for 1983 and 1985.  Marvelous Marvin Hagler was inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

I was a huge Marvelous Marvin Hagler fan.  Hagler was a fighter’s fighter.  I watched Hagler’s fights on television and pay-per-view.  Hagler provided so many great evenings spent with family watching him perform.  His fight against Tommy Hearns is perhaps the most exciting boxing match in the history of the sport.  I have a post scheduled for Tuesday (written a few days ago) in which I spotlight Marvelous Marvin Hagler as one of my choices to be in a group of “men’s men”, little knowing that he would pass on before the post would ever be published.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s family, friends and fans.  

RIP: Lou Ottens

It has just been announced that Lou Ottens has died at the age of 94.  If Mr. Ottens name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fell bad.  Mr. Ottens wasn’t famous, but I promise if you’re a certain age, you’ll appreciate his invention because of the hours you spent with it and the enjoyment it brought you.

Mr. Ottens invited the first cassette tape!

Mr. Ottens wanted music to portable, assessable and affordable.  He succeeded on all counts.  I can remember how exited I was to get my first cassette player and blank tapes.  If you’re of a certain age, I’m sure you remember making mix tapes for different occasions and friends.  How cool was it to be able to take your music with you and play it anywhere?  Very cool.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lou Ottens’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Frank Lupo

It has been announced that Frank Lupo, the creator, writer and producer of many popular television series, died on February 17, 2021, at the age of 66.  No cause of death was given.  Lupo started as a writer on Battlestar Galactica and BJ and the Bear.  Lupo then teamed with Stephen Cannell to create The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, Riptide and my personal favorite, Wiseguy.  Other productions that Lupo was involved in as a writer or producer include The A-Team, Walker, Texas Ranger, and Magnum, PI and those are just the highlights.  What a career!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Frank Lupo’s family, friends and fans. 

 

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.