Category: RIP

RIP: Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, but who later changed his name to Michael, has died at the age of 74.  No cause of death was announced.  Although best known for his record-breaking best selling album Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf was also an accomplished actor.  He appeared on Broadway, had notable roles in The Rocky Horror Picture Show,  Black Dog and Fight Club.  

Meat Loaf’s musical career started right after high school when his bands opened for acts such as Van Morrison, Janis Joplin and The Who.  For the next 50 plus years, Meat Loaf did what he loved best – entertaining.  He alternated between touring, putting out new music and acting.

In a time when disco was king, Bat Out of Hell became an international best seller.  It was an album that everyone knew about and most owned.  It was odd that this guy who appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show could sing.  And, boy, could he sing!  It was always a pleasure to see Meat Loaf pop up in television and film roles.  One of my favorites is The Salton Sea with Val Kilmer. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael Lee Aday’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier, actor, director, and writer died last night at the age of 94. 

Mr. Poitier was the first Black to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.  In 1967, had a year most actors only dream about; he starred in three hits (To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who is Coming to Dinner)!  In 1972 he directed his first feature film (Buck and the Preacher).  In 1977, after a career that saw him with over 40 acting and/or directing credits in 30 years, Sidney Poitier took a break that lasted eleven years!  When Sidney Poitier returned he alternated between acting in feature films and television movies. 

In 2001, Mr. Poitier retired from acting/directing.  He wrote a well-received memoir The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.  In 2009, Mr. Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

My favorite Sidney Poitier film is In the Heat of the Night. It’s because the character he played was a calm man of intelligence and dignity… and he resonated “cool”.  Cool, not as in hip, but cool as in control of himself and every situation.  I was always impressed when I heard Sidney Poitier in interviews.  We’ve lost a legend.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sidney Poitier’s family, friends and fans.

  

RIP: Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich died today at the age of 82 from natural causes.  Mr. Bogdanovich immersed his life in the world of cinema where he excelled as a writer, director, actor, producer and more.  

Like so many others, Peter Bogdanovich’s career began working for Roger Corman.  A few years later Corman produced Targets, written/directed by Peter Bogdanovich with Boris Karloff in the starring role.  While Targets gave some attention to Mr. Bogdanovich’s talents, it was The Last Picture Show that made him a household name.

The Last Picture Show featured an all-star cast (many before they became well known actors/actresses) directed by Peter Bogdanovich in a story that he co-wrote with Larry McMurtry.   The film was a hit with critics, the public and earned multiple nominations and awards from The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes, The Directors’ Guild and more.

After The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich would go on to write, act, and direct projects that interested him.  Some of the films he directed include: What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, and Mask.  He also wrote and directed a well-received documentary The Great Buster about silent film star Buster Keaton.  Last year Peter Bogdanovich along with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, began a documentary podcast about Bogdanovich’s life in Hollywood. Mr. Bogdanovich was a hit on talk shows because of his extensive knowledge of film history and his friendships with top Hollywood celebrities.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Peter Bogdanovich’s family, friends and fans. 

RIP: Betty White

Betty White, the beloved comedian, actress and author died today from natural causes at the age of 99.  Betty White’s career began in radio in the 1940s.  She transitioned to television working on local stations in 1949.  From 1952 to 1955, Betty White starred in (and also co-created and co-produced) Life with Elizabeth which was syndicated nationally.  Following Life with Elizabeth, Ms. White would go on to appear in television series, game and talk shows and the occasional feature film.

Betty White’s breakout role came in 1973 when she joined The Mary Tyler Moore Show playing Sue Ann Nivens, a woman in her 50s who was always on the prowl for a man.  She was a hit with critics and fans. Betty White won two (of her 5) Emmys for her efforts as Sue Ann Nivens.  When The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended Ms. White continued to stay busy with her own show (The Betty White Show, 1977-78) as well as guest appearances on television programs and tv movies.  She was so popular she ended up with recurring roles on The Love Boat, Mama’s Family and Empty Nest.

At the age of 63 (when many folks are considering retirement), Betty White landed the role of Rose Nyland on The Golden Girls.  The series ran for seven seasons and Ms. White returned as Rose for the sequel series The Golden Palace (which ran for one season).  Betty White’s portrayal of Rose Nyland won her another Emmy and she was nominated every year of The Golden Girls run!  

Betty White continued to make guest appearances (often in recurring roles) for the remainder of her career.  Her popularity continued to grow with each passing year.  Betty White’s 100 birthday was less than three weeks from today.  A big celebration that was to be filmed to mark the occasion will go on as planned and is tentatively titled “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration.

Although she was 99 years old, Betty White’s passing came as a surprise. I loved how her popularity grew as she got older.  It was always a pleasure to see her guest appearances and who didn’t love her as Sue Ann Nivens or Rose Nyland?  From all accounts Betty White was as wonderful a human being as she appeared to be. The world is a little less fun now that she is gone.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Betty White’s family, friends and fans.

 

RIP: John Madden

John Madden, the Super Bowl winning NFL coach (who never had a losing season), the 12-time Emmy Award winner for sports broadcasting, and the namesake for one of the all-time best-selling video games died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 85.  No cause of death was given.

John Madden was an all-conference college football (offensive tackle) and baseball (catcher) player.  Although he suffered a knee injury during his senior year, John Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958.  A second knee injury during training camp ended his pro career before he ever played a game.  From 1960 – 1966, Madden excelled as a college football coach which brought him to the attention of Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders.  Davis hired Madden as a Linebacker Coach in 1967.  In 1969, John Madden was named the Head Coach of the Raiders (making him the youngest Head Coach in the NFL).  Mr. Madden served as the Raiders Head Coach for ten years, winning one Super Bowl, never finishing below 2nd place in their division and never having a losing season.

After retiring as Head Coach of the Raiders, John Madden turned to television where he quickly became one of the most popular and respected sports broadcasters of all time.  John Madden’s popularity was so great he was sought after for commercials as well as television & movie appearances and the ever-popular Madden video game from EA Sports.

Watching John Madden’s Raiders was always fun, but watching a John Madden sports broadcast was even better.  John Madden knew the game and made his analysis fun.  Mr. Madden came off like the guy you’d like to hang out with at the family bar-b-que.  You knew he’d have great stories to share, and would enjoy the food, talk and fellowship. 

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

RIP: Andrew Vachss

Andrew Vachss died yesterday at the age of 79.  No cause of death was given.

Andrew Vachss led an interesting life.  He was at different times a social-services case worker, an attorney who only represented children and adolescents, and an author.  Mr. Vachss wrote 33 novels, 3 short story collections, many graphic novels/comic books, as well as essays on child protection (which was an underlying theme in much of his work).   Andrew Vachss loved dogs and under-dogs.  His passion was to bring abusers to justice and this theme ran throughout his work without ever coming off as preachy.

Andrew Vachss jumped to my favorite authors list with his 1988 novel Blue Belle, his third Burke novel.  Vachss had a unique voice and Burke (and his crew) were unlike any other crime fiction characters I’d read.  I quickly sought out the first two Burke books and anxiously awaited the publication of each new tale.  Along the way I followed Andrew Vachss to comics/graphic novels and other tales which always entertained.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Vachss.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew Vachss’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Michael Nesmith

Michael Nesmith died today from heart failure at the age of 78. Nesmith was a singer, song writer, actor, producer and novelist!  He was best known for his role as a member of The Monkees.

The Monkees [Mike, as he was called then, along with Davy JonesMickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork] took the world by storm in 1966.  The group was hand-picked by Screen Gems in an effort to create a tv show about a group of young musicians.  Lightning struck and the group not only had a hit tv series but became one of the biggest selling bands of the 60’s.  In 1967, The Monkees sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined.  The Monkees even appeared in a feature film called Head that was co-written by Jack Nicholson!

I was a huge Monkees fan like many kids my age [7].  I collected their albums, trading cards, comic books and magazines.  I had a model of The Monkeemobile.  I even followed The Monkees after Peter, then later Mike, quit the band.  Sadly, I never got to see them perform live when they reunited for several reunion tours.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael Nesmith’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Art LaFleur

On November 17th, Art LaFleur, the actor best known for his role as Babe Ruth in the movie The Sandlot, died after a decade long battle with Parkinson’s disease.  Mr. LaFleur was 78.

Art LaFleur served as a sports broadcaster for both CBS and ESPN, but it was his nearly 170 acting roles that made him famous.  He alternated between movie and television in a career that lasted nearly 40 years!

I always enjoyed whenever Art LaFleur showed up on screen.  He appeared twice in Sly Stallone films (Cobra and Oscar).  He also worked with Clint Eastwood, Nick Nolte, James Garner, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr. and others making their movies even better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Art LaFleur’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Dean Stockwell

Dean Stockwell, the actor best known for his role on Quantum Leap, died yesterday at the age of 85.

With over 200 acting roles on his resume, Stockwell successfully transitioned from child, teenager, young adult, adult to mature actor. He performed on Broadway, television and in feature films. Mr. Stockwell’s first role came in 1945 and he was put under contract with MGM. As a child actor he stayed busy and worked with everyone from Abbott & Costello to Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Gregory Peck.

Interestingly enough from 1951 to 1956, Dean Stockwell took a break from acting. When he returned Mr. Stockwell alternated between television and feature films. In 1957, he also had an acclaimed run on Broadway as Judd Steiner in Compulsion. He later reprised the role for the 1959 feature film and it earned him and his Compulsion co-stars Orson Welles and Bradford Dillman the Cannes Best Actor Award. .

Dean Stockwell took another break from acting taking no roles in 1966 – 1967. When he returned in 1968, Mr. Stockwell took role in both television and feature films. His signature role as Admiral Al Calavicci on the Quantum Leap series ran from 1989 – 1993. Dean Stockwell continued to act until his retirement in 2015.

I always enjoyed seeing Dean Stockwell show up in the credits of any television show or movie. My favorite Dean Stockwell performance is as Judd Steiner in Compulsion. He shares the screen with Orson Welles and more than holds his own.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dean Stockwell’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Betty Lynn


Betty Lynn, the actress best known as Barney Fife’s girlfriend on The Andy Griffith Show, died yesterday at the age of 95.

Many folks are surprised and the number of movies and television shows Ms. Lynn appeared in (probably because her role of Thelma Lou is so ingrained in our memories).  When Mark Evanier was a child, Betty Lynn was his next door neighbor.  They developed a life-long friendship and Evanier has written on his blog about Betty Lynn many times over the years. If you click over you’ll find his initial post about her passing and all about Ms. Lynn’s amazing life.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Betty Lynn’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jay Sandrich

Jay Sandrich has died at the age of 89.  Mr. Sandrich was an award-winning director (5 Emmy Awards, 3 Director’s Guild Awards) best known for his work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Cosby Show.

Jay Sandrich began his career as an Assistant Director working on I Love Lucy, The Red Skelton Show, The Untouchables, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Dick Van Dyke Show and many others.  Once Mr. Sandrich moved into the director’s chair he stayed busy working on The Danny Thomas Show, That Girl, Get Smart, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Here’s Lucy, The Odd Couple, and The Bob Newhart Show just to name a few.   Often Mr. Sandrich would be hired to direct multiple episodes.

In 1970, Mr. Sandrich directed the pilot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  He would go on to direct 119 of the show’s 168 episodes!  Jay Sandrich also directed episodes of the MTMS spin-offs: Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant. After the MTMS ended Mr. Sandrich continued to direct some of the most popular shows on television including: Welcome Back Kotter, WKRP in Cincinnati, Benson and Soap.

In 1980, Jay Sandrich directed the feature film Seems Like Old Times starring Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin.  Mr. Sandrich then returned to directing television shows including Night Court and The Golden Girls. Mr. Sandrich was then chosen as director for The Cosby Show.  He not only directed the pilot but went on to direct 100 of the 197 episodes made! 

Jay Sandrich continued to direct television projects that interested him, even adding episodes of The Office and Two and a Half Men to his resume.  Jay Sandrich was named to the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2020.

It’s hard to imagine just how many hours I’ve enjoyed of programs directed by Jay Sandrich.  He directed some of the funniest episodes of several classic series.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  If you haven’t seen his lone feature film: Seems Like Old Times.  You should consider giving it a go.  I remember seeing Seems Like Old Times when it was first released and really enjoying it.  Jay Sandrich knew how to bring out the best in the performers he worked with.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jay Sandrich’s family, friends and fans.

  

RIP: Michael K. Williams

Michael K. Williams died today.  He was 54.  No cause of death was given. 

Michael K. Williams is probably best known for his breakout role as Omar on the HBO series The Wire or perhaps it is as Leonard Pine on Hap & Leonard.  Then again you may know him best as Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire.  Of course others may have just discovered Mr. Williams with his role as Montrose Freeman on HBO’s Lovecraft Country (for which he received a 2021 Emmy nomination; his 5th).

Michael K. Williams has over 100 acting credits on his resume.  He appeared in The Sopranos, Boston Legal, Law & Order, with recurring Alias, :Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Community, and When They See Us to name just a few tv series.  Some of Mr. Williams work in feature films included Bullet, Bringing Out the Dead, Gone Baby Gone, Twelve Years a Slave, Triple 9, Ghostbusters, Arkansas, and Motherless Brooklyn.

My favorite Michael K. Williams role was a Leonard Pine on Hap & Leonard, but he was excellent every time he appeared onscreen.  In addition to acting ability Michael K. Williams had charisma.  It’s sad that he left us at such a young age.  We can only imagine the roles he’d yet to entertain us with.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael K. Williams’ family, friends and fans.

RIP: Ed Asner

Ed Asner, the actor best known for playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 – 1977) and Lou Grant (1977 – 1982), died today at the age of 91.  Mr. Asner is one of the few actors to play the same character in a comedy and a drama.  He also is the male actor to have won the most Primetime Emmy Awards with seven.

Mr. Asner began his career with uncredited roles on the series Studio One in 1957.  His IMDb resume now contains over 400 acting credits with several that were lined up for the future.  That shows amazing popularity in a career lasting over 60 years. The demand for Mr. Asner’s talents had not diminished despite him being over 90!

Before his career defining role as Lou Grant, Ed Asner regularly guest starred on popular tv series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Route 66; The Untouchables; The Outer Limits; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; The Rat Patrol; Gunsmoke; The Fugitive; The Wild Wild West; The Invaders; Mission Impossible; and many, many others.

In 1970, Ed Asner shot to fame for his role as the gruff but loveable, Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Mr. Asner and his character were popular to earn a spin off series moving from a half hour comedy to a full hour drama titled Lou Grant. His portrayal of Lou Grant earned Ed Asner five of his seven Emmy Awards.  Mr. Asner also played Lou Grant on two other series (Rhoda and Roseanne).  Mr. Asner’s other two Emmy Awards were for his work on Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man.

Ed Asner also appeared in feature films with his best known probably being the lead voice actor on Up or the bad guy in El Dorado starring John Wayne.  Mr. Asner was in high demand for voice work and he did quite a bit of it as well.  

When not acting, Mr. Asner was involved in activities that he felt strongly about.  He twice served as President of the Screen Actors Guild and was involved with many non-profit organizations and charities.

Watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a weekly family event and a large (no pun intended) part of that was Ed Asner as Lou Grant.  Everyone was able to play off of him and his reactions were classic.  I was impressed at how easy it was for his character to move from an award-winning 30 minute comedy to an award-winning 60 minute drama.  That couldn’t happen without an excellent actor. 

I think what I loved most about Ed Asner was his attitude toward life.  He spoke up for his beliefs, was positive in his posts (yes, at 91 he was active on Twitter!) and was able to stay popular and relevant in an ever-changing world!

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

 

RIP: Marilyn Eastman

Marilyn Eastman, best known for her role in George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, died yesterday at the age of 87.  No cause of death was given.

Ms. Eastman not only co-starred in Night of the Living Dead, she was also one producing partners of Image Ten – the company formed to finance the movie.  It’s interesting to note that Marilyn Eastman played Helen Cooper, the wife of Harry Cooper played by Karl Hardman, who was her real-life business and life partner.  In addition, Ms. Eastman also worked on make-up, props and assisted with the editing for Night of the Living Dead.

After filming of Night of the Living Dead, Marilyn Eastman returned to work at Hardman/Eastman, Inc., the production company she and Karl Hardman had created prior to the making of the horror classic.  Ms. Eastman would continue to make and/or appear in commercials and industrial films for the rest of her career.   In addition, Marilyn Eastman had roles in an episode of Perry Mason in 1960 and the movies Houseguest (1995) and Santa Claws (1996).

The only film/tv show I ever saw Marilyn Eastman act in was Night of the Living Dead.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve see it, but I do know I’ve spent more time watching Ms. Eastman on screen than many, movie/tv stars with dozens more credits.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marilyn Eastman’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Pat Hitchcock

Patricia (Pat) Hitchcock, an actress, producer and writer, died on August 9th at the age of 93.  Pat Hitchcock was the only child of director Alfred Hitchcock.

Her very first role was an uncredited part in her father’s 1936 film Sabotage.  As a teenager Pat Hitchcock performed on stage in summer stock productions.  When she graduated high school Pat Hitchcock attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed on stage.

Before deciding to marry and raise a family, Pat Hitchcock appeared in three films.  The two most famous were Stage Fright and Strangers on a Train, both directed by her father.  In 1956, Mrs. Hitchcock had an uncredited role in The 10 Commandments.  In 1960, she appeared in one of her father’s most famous films, Psycho.  Pat Hitchcock also appeared in ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Pat Hitchcock also worked on Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Alfred Hitchcock was the first director I knew by name.  As a child I loved watching his movies and looking for his cameos.  When I was older I learned that his daughter appeared in some of his films and his television series and I enjoyed looking for her appearances.

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