12/30/04 - Artie Shaw - (AP) THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Artie Shaw, clarinetist and bandleader whose recording of "Begin the Beguine" epitomized the Big Band era, died Thursday at the age of 94, the manager of his orchestra said.
Shaw had been ill for some time, orchestra manager Will Curtis said, but he did not know the specific cause of death.
At his peak in the 1930s and '40s, Shaw pulled in a five-figure salary per week and ranked with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller as the bandleaders who made music swing. But he left the music world largely behind in the mid-'50s and spent much of the second half of his life devoted to writing and other pursuits.
His band's recording of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" was intended to be the "B" side of the record. Instead, it became a huge hit, topping the charts for six weeks in 1938 and making Shaw famous at age 28.
Among his other hits, some with his big band and some with his quartet, the Gramercy Five: "Frenesi," "Dancing in the Dark," "Nightmare," "Back Bay Shuffle," "Accent-tchu-ate the Positive," "Traffic Jam," "They Say," "Moonglow," "Stardust," "Thanks for Ev'rything," "Summit Ridge Drive" and "My Little Nest of Heavenly Blue."
He composed some of his songs, such as "Interlude in B Flat," a 1935 work that featured an unusual combination of clarinet and strings.
He worked with such jazz legends as Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, Gordon Jenkins and, at a time when most white bandleaders refused to hire blacks, Billie Holiday.
Another famous roster: his wives. They included actresses Lana Turner (wife No. 3, 1940), Ava Gardner (No. 5, 1945), and Evelyn Keyes (No. 8, 1957) and novelist Kathleen Winsor, author of the 1944 best-seller "Forever Amber" (No. 6, 1946).
The marriage to Keyes, best know for playing the middle of the three O'Hara sisters in "Gone With the Wind," lasted the longest, until 1985, but they led separate lives for much of that time.
"I like her very much and she likes me, but we've found it about impossible to live together," he said in a 1973 interview.
After his first burst of stardom, his good looks made Hollywood come calling. It was while filming "Dancing Coed," 1939, that he met Turner. In 1940, he appeared in another musical, "Second Chorus," and got two Academy Award nominations for his musical contributions - for best score and best song ("Love of My Life.")
A volatile and superbly intelligent man, Shaw hated the loss of privacy that stardom brought, had little use for signing autographs and once caused an uproar by calling jitterbugging fans "morons." He later said he was just referring to the rowdy ones.
"I could never understand why people wanted to dance to my music," he once said. "I made it good enough to listen to."
He chafed at having to play "Begin the Beguine" ad nauseam, wishing audiences would be more willing to accept new material. ("I mean, it's a good tune if you are going to be associated with one tune, but I didn't want that.")
He retired from performing several times - finally putting down his clarinet for good in the mid-'50s. After that, he lived in Spain for a time, operated a farm, and turned to literature full-time. He was a voracious reader since childhood, and had already produced a well-received autobiography, "The Trouble with Cinderella," in 1952.
"I did all you can do with a clarinet," he said. "Any more would have been less."
He put out two collections of short fiction, "I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!" and "The Best of Intentions." He spent years working on a voluminous autobiographical novel tracing the rise of a young jazz musician, whom he called Albie Snow.
"I've lived for a long time and I've learned a few things that I'm passing on," he said.
Shaw was born Arthur Arshawsky on May 23, 1910, in New York City; his immigrant parents struggled to earn a living in the clothing business.
He began his professional career while still in his teens, first playing saxophone, then switching to clarinet to take advantage of a job opportunity.
By the time he was in his early 20s, he was a highly paid member of a CBS radio orchestra. After the first of his many retirements from the music business, he returned to New York and began assembling his first orchestra. "Begin the Beguine" and fame followed not long afterward.
He enlisted in the Navy during World War II and wound up spending most of his time leading a band, giving shows for the troops.
An outspoken liberal, Shaw was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953 when it was investigating Communist influence in entertainment. For once, Shaw was contrite, telling committee members he had attended a couple of Communist meetings after the war because of his interest in social justice and world peace - but had never joined the party or given it any money.
"I hate to admit that I was a dupe, but I guess I was," he said. Committee members responded with sympathy, one telling him to go out and use his talent "to fight for true Americanism."
His only musical activity in recent years was conducting a revival band he organized in the early 1980s, featuring arrangements Shaw's bands had used in the past. He did not play his clarinet.
Shaw was often asked about his supposed rivalry with fellow clarinetist Goodman. He said: "Benny, who was every bit as dedicated as I was, wanted to be an instrumentalist - he was a superb technician - while I wanted to be a musician. I think my mind was more complex than his."
More on Artie Shaw, 1/7/04-
Funeral to be held Sunday for band leader Artie Shaw
(AP) LOS ANGELES - A funeral will be held Sunday for clarinetist and jazz great Artie Shaw.
Shaw died Dec. 30 of a complication related to diabetes. He was 94.
The funeral will be held in the chapel at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, Shaw's personal assistant Larry Rose said Thursday.
Among those attending the public service will be Red Buttons and Shaw's orchestra director Dick Johnson.
Shaw epitomized the Big Band era with hits such as "Begin the Beguine"
and "Stardust" before abandoning the music world for writing and
12/29/04 - Jerry Orbach - NEW YORK - Jerry Orbach had a gift for charming audiences his entire career — first as a song-and-dance man who starred in musicals on and off Broadway, then for 12 years as a sharp-tongued cop on TV’s “Law & Order.”
Along the way, he made films as varied as the gritty crime drama “Prince of the City” and the smash romance “Dirty Dancing.”
Orbach, who died of prostate cancer Tuesday in Manhattan, was beginning another chapter at age 69: He had taken his signature role as Detective Lennie Briscoe to NBC’s upcoming spinoff “Law & Order: Trial By Jury.”
With his hangdog puss and loose-limbed gait, Orbach was unmatched at playing the street-smart tough guy. A quintessential New Yorker, he personified his city’s well-worn but implacable edge, embodying the Big Apple like few other actors.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called Orbach “a friend to all New Yorkers” and “a devoted ambassador of the city.”
Orbach’s long-time “Law & Order” co-star, S. Epatha Merkerson, remembered him as “as a real good guy who knew everything and everybody. He had a real lust for life and the work he did, and it permeated throughout the set.”
Of course, he presented quite a different picture as the world-weary, recovering alcoholic Briscoe. But even as Briscoe drooped from the burden of everything he’d encountered, both on and off the job, he sized up life with sarcastic asides. For instance, standing over a fresh body on which a receipt from a fancy restaurant was found, he muttered: “Dinner for two? Hope he enjoyed it.”
Orbach had announced in early December that he had prostate cancer. His manager said at the time that he had been receiving treatment since spring, but declined to disclose any particulars about the seriousness of his condition.
Orbach is expected to appear in early “Trial By Jury” episodes when the show premieres in March.
“I’m immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th-century show business,” said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the four “Law & Order” series. “He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable.”
Orbach started his career as a hoofer who also could carry a tune. Beginning in the 1960s, he starred on Broadway in hit musicals including “Carnival,” “Promises, Promises” (for which he won a Tony Award), “42nd Street” and “Chicago.”
“He was an anchor who brought style, security and razzle-dazzle to our original ‘Chicago’ company,” said Chita Rivera, Orbach’s co-star in that 1975 production. “He was a swell guy.”
In 1960, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit “The Fantasticks,” playing the Narrator who sang the evocative “Try to Remember.” That show went on to run for more than 40 years.
Lights on Broadway marquees were expected to be dimmed for one minute at curtain time Wednesday night in Orbach’s memory.
Among his film appearances were parts in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Dirty Dancing” (in which he played Jennifer Grey’s protective dad) and the animated “Beauty and the Beast,” in which he voiced the role of the candlestick Lumiere, singing “Be Our Guest.”
It was his cop role in the 1981 drama “Prince of the City” that inspired his “Law & Order” character.
Born in the Bronx in 1935, Orbach was the son of a vaudeville-performer father and a radio-singer mother. He acted in school plays, then attended Northwestern University’s prestigious drama school in suburban Chicago, though he couldn’t swing the money to finish. In 1955, he returned to New York to hit the stage.
In a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, Orbach remembered those days fondly. Money was tight, even with his early successes: He was earning just $45 a week in “The Fantasticks,” but “even married, with a son, we lived all right.”
He then began an association with producer David Merrick, appearing in three of Merrick’s biggest musical successes, starting in 1961 with “Carnival,” in which he played an embittered puppeteer opposite Anna Maria Alberghetti’s winsome Lili.
In “Promises, Promises,” the Neil Simon-Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical based on the film “The Apartment,” he played Chuck Baxter, the role originated in the movie by Jack Lemmon.
His biggest hit for Merrick was “42nd Street,” which opened on Broadway in 1980 and ran for more than 3,400 performances. In the show, based on the classic backstage movie, Orbach played hard-boiled producer Julian Marsh, who brings the young dancer out of the chorus to replace the show’s ailing star.
In “Chicago,” Orbach played money-loving lawyer Billy Flynn, the role Richard Gere inherited in the 2002 film. It was also in that show that he met dancer Elaine Cancilla, whom he married in 1979.
She survives him, as well as sons Chris and Tony from his first marriage.
Orbach’s first shot at series television was a flop. In “The Law and Harry McGraw,” he played a wily but irascible private eye. The show lasted only the 1987-88 season. But four years later he struck gold, succeeding Paul Sorvino at Manhattan’s 27th Precinct as “Law & Order” entered its third season.
“People adored him,” said Merkerson, who plays Lt. Van Buren. She recalled sharing lunch one day with Orbach and co-star Benjamin Bratt, when several fans approached the table. “Jerry stopped eating to talk to them. But after a while, I whispered to him, ‘Your food is getting cold.’
“‘Kid,’ he replied with a big smile, ‘these are the people that keep us going!”’
11/29/04 - John Drew Barrymore - LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- John Drew Barrymore, the sometimes troubled heir to an acting dynasty and absent father of movie star Drew Barrymore, died Monday. He was 72.
"He was a cool cat. Please smile when you think of him," Drew Barrymore said in a statement issued by her publicist's office.
No information was released about the cause of death or where in Los Angeles he died.
John D. Barrymore was part of an acting clan that included his father, the famed stage and early film actor John Barrymore, and his father's siblings, Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore. Drew Barrymore was his daughter by his third wife, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore.
John D. Barrymore was born in Beverly Hills on June 4, 1932. His mother was actress Dolores Costello.
He started his career while a teenager, appearing professionally first as John Barrymore Jr. and then as John Drew Barrymore. He had movie roles in the 1950s in "The Sundowners," "High Lonesome," "Quebec," "The Big Night," "Thunderbirds" and "While the City Sleeps."
But along the way there were problems with drugs, drunken driving and violence, domestic and otherwise. By the early 1960s he had left Hollywood for Italy to work in European movies.
In a 1962 interview with The Associated Press in Rome he made no apologies for headline-grabbing street brawls there.
"I'm not a nice, clean-cut American kid at all," he said. "I'm just a human being. Those things just happen."
By 1964 he had been married twice, to Cara Williams and to Italian actress Gabriella Palazollo, and had returned to Hollywood after making more than a dozen films overseas -- none of them any good by his own estimation.
By then his billing had become John Drew Barrymore, perhaps to step out of his father's shadow.
"I don't mind if my acting is compared to him," he said in an AP interview. "The trouble is that people expect me to live like him."
Later, Barrymore had sporadic film and television roles.
As a teenage star battling alcoholism herself, Drew Barrymore wrote about her father in the memoir "Little Girl Lost." He was depicted as menacing, showing up only to abuse his daughter and former wife and ask for money.
"The little bit of relationship that there was was very abusive and just chaotic," Drew Barrymore told the AP in 1990.
Still, she said, "I had this fantasy in my mind, that I was going to have 'Father Knows Best' walk through the door. I wanted that so bad, and I wasn't going to face reality that it wasn't going to happen."
John D. Barrymore is also survived by a son, John Barrymore III, by his first wife.
10/10/04 - Christopher Reeve - (MSNBC) BEDFORD, N.Y. - Christopher Reeve, the star of the “Superman” movies whose near-fatal riding accident nine years ago turned him into a worldwide advocate for spinal cord research, died Sunday of heart failure, his publicist said. He was 52.
Reeve fell into a coma Saturday after going into cardiac arrest while at his New York home, his publicist, Wesley Combs told The Associated Press by phone from Washington, D.C., on Sunday night.
Reeve was being treated at Northern Westchester Hospital for a pressure wound, a common complication for people living with paralysis. In the past week, the wound had become severely infected, resulting in a serious systemic infection.
“On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank Northern Westchester Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my husband,” Dana Reeve, Christopher’s wife, said in a statement. “I also want to thank his personal staff of nurses and aides, as well as the millions of fans from around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years.”
Reeve broke his neck in May 1995 when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Va.
Enduring months of therapy to allow him to breathe for longer and longer periods without a respirator, Reeve emerged to lobby Congress for better insurance protection against catastrophic injury and to move an Academy Award audience to tears with a call for more films about social issues.
He returned to directing, and even returned to acting in a 1998 production of “Rear Window,” a modern update of the Hitchcock thriller about a man in a wheelchair who becomes convinced a neighbor has been murdered. Reeve won a Screen Actors Guild award for best actor in a television movie or miniseries.
“I was worried that only acting with my voice and my face, I might not be able to communicate effectively enough to tell the story,” Reeve said. “But I was surprised to find that if I really concentrated, and just let the thoughts happen, that they would read on my face. With so many close-ups, I knew that my every thought would count.”
In his public appearances, he was as handsome as ever, his blue eyes bright and his voice clear.
“Hollywood needs to do more,” he said in the March 1996 Oscar awards appearance. “Let’s continue to take risks. Let’s tackle the issues. In many ways our film community can do it better than anyone else. There is no challenge, artistic or otherwise, that we can’t meet.”
Symbol of recovery
In 2000, Reeve was able to move his index finger, and a specialized workout regimen made his legs and arms stronger. He also regained sensation in other parts of his body.
Reeve’s support of stem cell research helped it emerge as a major campaign issue between President Bush and John Kerry. His name was even mentioned by Kerry earlier this month during the second presidential debate.
As for the strain of traveling to Hollywood, Reeve said: “I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I live my life. I don’t mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery.”
His athletic, 6-foot-4-inch frame and love of adventure made him a natural, if largely unknown, choice for the title role in the first “Superman” movie in 1978. He insisted on performing his own stunts.
Although he reprised the role three times, Reeve often worried about being typecast as an action hero.
“Look, I’ve flown, I’ve become evil, loved, stopped and turned the world backward, I’ve faced my peers, I’ve befriended children and small animals and I’ve rescued cats from trees,” Reeve told the Los Angeles Times in 1983, just before the release of the third “Superman” movie. “What else is there left for Superman to do that hasn’t been done?”
Escaping the cape
Though he owed his fame to it, Reeve made a concerted effort to, as he often put it, “escape the cape.” He played an embittered, crippled Vietnam veteran in the 1980 Broadway play “Fifth of July,” a lovestruck time-traveler in the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time,” and an aspiring playwright in the 1982 suspense thriller “Deathtrap.”
“After the first ‘Superman,’ I had the compulsion to do parts that were really weird,” Reeve told The Associated Press in 1987. “That freaked people out. I’ve passed that.”
More recent films included John Carpenter’s “Village of the Damned,” and the HBO movies “Above Suspicion” and “In the Gloaming,” which he directed. Among his other film credits are “The Remains of the Day,” “The Aviator,” and “Morning Glory.”
Yet Reeve always will be known to movie fans as the strapping, boyishly handsome stage veteran whose charm and humor brought a new dimension to the characters of Superman and his alter-ego, Clark Kent. The film co-starred Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.
Reeve said in public appearances promoting the “Superman” films, he tried to get children to better themselves.
“They should be looking for Superman’s qualities — courage, determination, modesty, humor — in themselves rather than passively sitting back, gaping slack-jawed at this terrific guy in boots,” Reeve said.
Reeve was born Sept. 25, 1952, in New York City, son of a novelist and a newspaper reporter. He in around 10 when he made his first stage appearance — in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeoman of the Guard” at McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J.
He starred in virtually all of the theatrical productions at the exclusive Princeton Day School. By age 16, he had joined the actors’ union.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, he landed a part as coldhearted bigamist Ben Harper on the television soap opera “Love of Life.” He also performed frequently on stage, winning his first Broadway role as the grandson of a character played by Katharine Hepburn in “A Matter of Gravity.”
Reeve’s first movie role was a minor one in the submarine disaster movie “Gray Lady Down,” released in 1978. “Superman” soon followed. Reeve was selected for the title role from among about 200 aspirants.
Devistating riding injury
Active in many sports, Reeve owned several horses and competed in equestrian events regularly. Witnesses to the May 1995 accident said Reeve’s horse had cleared two of 15 fences during the jumping event and stopped abruptly at the third, flinging the actor headlong to the ground.
Doctors said he fractured the top two vertebrae in his neck and damaged his spinal cord. When he finally was released from a rehabilitation institute in December 1995, he thanked staffed members “who have set the stage for my continued journey.” He underwent further rehabilitation at his home in upstate New York.
While filming “Superman” in London, Reeve met modeling agency co-founder Gae Exton, and the two began a relationship that lasted several years. The couple had two sons, but were never wed.
Reeve later married Dana Morosini; they had one son, Will, 11. His wife became his frequent spokeswoman after the accident.
Reeve also is survived by his mother, Barbara Johnson; his father, Franklin Reeve; his brother, Benjamin Reeve; and his two children from his relationship with Exton, Matthew, 25, and Alexandra, 21.
No plans for a funeral were immediately announced.
A few months after the accident, he told interviewer Barbara Walters that he considered suicide in the first dark days after he was injured. But he quickly overcame such thoughts when he saw his children.
“I could see how much they needed me and wanted me ... and how lucky we all are and that my brain is on straight.”
Note from the Underground: Christopher Reeve's private services were conducted at his home in NY.
10/5/04 - Rodney Dangerfield - (Reuters) LOS ANGELES - Rodney Dangerfield, the goggle-eyed comic famed for his self-deprecating one-liners and signature phrase “I can’t get no respect,” died Tuesday at age 82, his spokesman said.
Dangerfield, who became a pop culture sensation in middle age with a string of broad film comedies starting with ”Caddyshack” in 1980, died at the UCLA Medical Center, where he had undergone heart valve replacement surgery on Aug. 25, spokesman Kevin Sasaki said.
Dangerfield, whose initial forays into show business ended in failure, restarted his career as a comedian in his 40s. He went on to become a national sensation in his own right and helped launch the careers of such comics as Jim Carrey and Jerry Seinfeld.
Dangerfield suffered a stroke following the surgery in August and “developed infectious and abdominal complications from which he did not recover,” Sasaki said.
During the past week, the entertainer emerged from a coma he had slipped into sometime after the operation, according to his wife, Joan. “When Rodney emerged, he kissed me, squeezed my hand, and smiled for the doctors,” Joan Dangerfield said in a statement.
A native of New York’s Long Island, Dangerfield had endured a series of health problems in recent years. Last spring, he underwent brain surgery.
A month later, Dangerfield greeted reporters at the hospital dressed in a sports shirt and Bermuda shorts and declared, “My brain is OK. I feel like a new man.” Later, responding to a medical question, he answered, “Ask me about things I’m familiar with, like drugs or prostitution.”
Two starts at showbiz
Born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York, in 1921, Dangerfield began writing jokes as a teenager, struggling as a comic and singing waiter in the “Borscht Belt” resorts of the Catskill Mountains under the name of Jack Roy in the 1940s.
Leaving show business to earn a living as a house painter and aluminum siding salesman, he returned to the comedy circuit about a decade later, this time as Rodney Dangerfield.
He eventually opened a New York nightclub and became a nationally recognized act with comedy albums and numerous TV appearances. Along the way he is credited with helping give a start to an impressive array of once-obscure talents who went on to become stars, among them Carrey, Seinfeld, Roseanne and the late Sam Kinison.
Moving easily from nightclubs to TV to commercials to film, Dangerfield remained popular well past the peak of his career in the 1980s, forever tugging at his tie and drawing laughs with his catch phrase “I can’t get no respect.”
Dangerfield made his film debut in the 1971 low-budget comedy “The Projectionist,” playing the dual supporting roles of a tyrannical cinema manager and a serial villain, The Bat.
But his big-screen breakout came in a string of rowdy comedies in the 1980s -- “Caddyshack,” “Easy Money” and “Back to School.” His movie appearances generally have mirrored his stand-up comedy persona, with Dangerfield playing boisterous, casually ribald characters with a rapid-fire patter of one-liners.
Later film roles included the coach of a girl’s soccer team in “Ladybugs” (1992), an abusive father in Oliver Stone’s ”Natural Born Killers” (1994), a tabloid TV show reporter in ”Meet Wally Sparks” (1997) and a wannabe opera star in “The 4th Tenor” (2002).
Note from the Underground: Rodney Dangerfield was laid to rest at Westwood Memorial Park, Westwood, CA.
10/3/04 - Janet Leigh - (AP) LOS ANGELES - Janet Leigh, the wholesome beauty whose shocking murder in the classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller “Psycho” was credited with making generations of film fans think twice about stepping into a motel room shower, has died. She was 77.
The actress’ husband, Robert Brandt, and her daughters, actresses Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, were at their mother’s side when she died Sunday at her Beverly Hills home, said Heidi Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for Jamie Lee Curtis.
“She died peacefully at home,” Schaeffer told The Associated Press on Monday.
Leigh had suffered from vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, for the past year.
The stunning blonde enjoyed a long and distinguished career, appearing in such films as the 1962 political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” and in Orson Welles’ 1958 film noir classic “Touch of Evil.”
But she gained her most lasting fame in “Psycho” as the embezzling office worker who is stabbed to death in the shower by cross-dressing madman Anthony Perkins. The role earned her an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress.
Hitchcock compiled the shower sequence in 70-odd takes of two and three seconds each, for which Leigh spent seven days in the shower. Rumors circulated that she was nude, but she wore a flesh-colored moleskin.
Although tame by today’s standards, the scene was shocking for the time for its brutality.
No more showers
Leigh wrote in her 1995 book “Psycho: Behind the Scenes in the Classic Thriller” that the filming was easy until the last 20 seconds when she had to express total horror as her character was being slashed to death.
She often said she hadn’t been able to take a shower since the movie. “It’s not a hype, not something I thought would be good for publicity,” she insisted. “Honest to gosh, it’s true.”
Leigh’s entry into films occurred in cliche fashion. Born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, Calif., on July 6, 1927, she was a college student when retired star Norma Shearer saw her photograph at a ski resort. Shearer recommended the teenager to talent agent Lew Wasserman, who negotiated a contract at MGM for $50 a week.
Dubbed Janet Leigh, she starred in 1947 at 19 in her first movie, “The Romance of Rosy Ridge” opposite Van Johnson. Her salary rose to $150 a week. She became one of the busiest stars at MGM, appearing in six movies in 1949.
Among her films: “Act of Violence” (with Van Heflin), “Little Women,” “Holiday Affair” (Robert Mitchum), “Strictly Dishonorable” (Ezio Pinza), “The Naked Spur” (James Stewart), “Living It Up” (Martin and Lewis), “Jet Pilot” (John Wayne), “Bye Bye Birdie” (Dick Van Dyke), “Safari” (Victor Mature).
The ideal couple
Leigh had been married twice before coming to Hollywood: to John K. Carlyle, 1942, annulled; and Stanley Reames, 1946-1948, divorced. In 1951 she married Tony Curtis when their stardoms were at a peak. Both their studios, MGM and Universal, expressed concerns that their immense popularity with teenagers would be hindered if they were married.
Aided by a splurge of fan magazine publicity, their appeal rose. They appeared in four films together, including “Houdini” and “The Vikings.” The “ideal couple” divorced in 1963. In her 1984 autobiography, “There Really Was a Hollywood,” she refrained from criticizing Curtis.
“Tony and I had a wonderful time together; it was an exciting, glamorous period in Hollywood,” she said in an interview. “A lot of great things happened, most of all, two beautiful children (Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis).” Leigh’s 1964 marriage to businessman Brandt was longer lasting.
Leigh appeared with Jamie Lee in the 1980 thriller “The Fog” and made occasional television appearances in her later years.
“Touch of Evil” was “a great experience,” she said in 1984, but she was disappointed with the end result: “Universal just couldn’t understand it, so they recut it. Gone was the undisciplined but brilliant film Orson had made.”
She wrote in her autobiography that “The Manchurian Candidate” was “a dynamite film,” though she had worried about working with Frank Sinatra: “I had heard that Frank was known for unconventional work habits, and I was apprehensive, especially in view of our friendship. I needn’t have been. My experience with him revealed his absolute professionalism.”
9/25/04 - Bill Ballance - (LA TIMES) Bill Ballance, a groundbreaking Los Angeles radio personality and talk-radio pioneer who was the host of the popular and controversial "Feminine Forum" in the 1970s and various talk shows over the next two decades, has died. He 85.
Ballance, who was known for his free-spirited spontaneity, double entendres and one-liners, died Thursday at his home in San Diego. He had been in failing health since June 2002 after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery and suffering a stroke, said his son, Jim.
Ballance's provocative "Feminine Forum" was launched in 1971 on KGBS-AM in Los Angeles.
Designed for a young female audience, the daily five-hour show featured topics such as "Where did his love go and how did you know it was gone?" "Have you ever thrown yourself at a hunk who wasn't catching?" and "Are you a red-hot mama?"
Ballance played the role of what former Times radio columnist James Brown called "the lascivious uncle, chiding his 'doll babies' to rid themselves of their 'grunthead' oppressors."
Within a year, Ballance's "Feminine Forum" was one of the most popular radio shows in Los Angeles, with as many men tuning in as women. By turns witty, racy and confessional, the daring program was soon syndicated across the country and spawned imitators in dozens of cities.
"The 'Feminine Forum' was really the forerunner to [radio's] Tom Leykis and Howard Stern," Don Barrett, executive editor of LARadio.com and author of "Los Angeles Radio People," told The Times on Friday.
"It was really a breakthrough show," said Barrett. "Bill talked to the women, and he really took their side in whatever conflict they were having with their husband or boyfriend. And he had a little sexual content in there. Nobody did that on L.A. radio prior to Bill, but he did it in a very tasteful way. Certainly, by today's standards, it was very tame."
Ballance's mike-side manner drew out intimate personal details from his female callers.
A major ingredient to his on-air success was his command of the language.
"Billo," as he was called, was known to open the phone lines by saying the show would explore "the fragility of love and the constancy of corruption."
He had a penchant for a clever, if not corny, turn of phrase: "Many a charming little armful becomes a dreadful little bed-full"; "Marry in haste, repent insolvent"; and "A perpetual indifference means an eventual goodbye."
Times staff writer William Trombley wrote in 1975: "His astonishing verbal facility and deep, suggestive voice manage to convey meanings the words themselves do not contain."
"It's just a scream," one female Malibu fan of the show told The Times in 1972.
But not everyone shared her enthusiasm.
Feminist groups accused the program of exploitation and insulting the intelligence of its callers. For his part, Ballance called women's rights activists "professional blind dates."
The many imitators spawned by Ballance's success prompted an unexpected backlash.
"When my show became No. 1, I had over 500 imitators across the nation," Ballance told The Times in 1975, "most of them young 'rock jocks' who couldn't handle these calls of a very personal nature…. I was besmirched by my gross imitators."
Indeed, wrote The Times' Brown: "Where the Ballance show had wit, preparation and style, most of the imitators could only accomplish sledge-like raunch."
His imitators had crossed the line so much that federal regulators cracked down on what Dean Burch, then-chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, called "topless radio" and "electronic voyeurism."
"My show was mentioned by the FCC but not cited," Ballance told The Times. "The verdict came through to the effect that 'The Bill Ballance Show' is not obscene and that was it."
KGBS abandoned the "Feminine Forum" in early 1973 but its host remained on the air with a toned-down "Bill Ballance Show."
After KGBS dropped its talk format in favor of country music in 1974, Ballance signed with KABC, where he did another milder version of his original show.
Ballance created more controversy in the late 1990s when he sold nude photographs of talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger to an Internet company.
He had taken the pictures during their romance in the mid-1970s when Schlessinger was a regular on his show. Ballance, who was paid $50,000 by Internet Entertainment Group, reportedly sold the pictures because he had been snubbed by Schlessinger at a Beverly Hills luncheon honoring her. In late 1998, a judge ruled that the 12 nude photos of Schlessinger could be posted again on a website.
Schlessinger said at the time, "I am mystified as to why, 23 years later, this 80-year-old man would do such a morally reprehensible thing."
Responding to a caller's question on Tom Leykis' radio show, Ballance justified selling the photos.
"The fact is she told so many lies about our relationship," he said. "An example being our being together just a week or two and that she was on my show just a few days, or a few times rather. She was on my show for 2½ years. We went together for a torrid 2½ years. I'm tired of being lied about, and the longer it goes on the more people believe her."
Born in Peoria, Ill., Ballance majored in journalism at the University of Illinois and worked as an on-air personality on Denver radio station KOA before joining the Marines in 1942 and serving in the South Pacific. After his discharge at the rank of captain in 1946, he returned to KOA .
In 1952, after hosting a television variety show in Chicago, Ballance moved to Los Angeles, where he went to work at KNX radio.
In the late '50s and early '60s, Ballance was one of the top rock disc jockeys in Los Angeles on KFWB until he was caught in KFWB's transition to all news in 1965. He spent the next four years on stations in Denver, San Francisco and Honolulu, until he returned to Los Angeles to fill an opening at KGBS.
Ballance told The Times in 1974: "My career had plateaued to a definite level of mediocrity when Ray Stanfield, the station's general manager, called me in and said that he wanted me to start talking to women. The presentation would be up to me."
Ballance retired from radio in 1993, after working at KFMB in San Diego since 1978.
In addition to his son Jim, of Altadena, Ballance is survived by another son Kurt, of Hemet, Calif.; and two granddaughters.
A funeral service will be held in Peoria Oct. 9.
9/15/04 - Johnny Ramone - (AP) LOS ANGELES - Johnny Ramone, guitarist and co-founder of the seminal punk band "The Ramones," has died. He was 55.
Ramone died in his sleep Wednesday afternoon at his Los Angeles home surrounded by friends and family, his publicist said. He had battled prostate cancer for five years, and was hospitalized in June at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Ramone, born John Cummings, was one of the original members of the Ramones, whose hit songs "I Wanna be sedated" and "Blitzkrieg Bop," among others, earned the band induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
The band's singer, Joey Ramone, whose real name was Jeff Hyman, died in 2001 of lymphatic cancer. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone, who was born Douglas Colvin, died from a drug overdose in 2002.
Johnny Ramone founded "The Ramones" in 1974 with Joey Ramone, DeeDee Ramone and Tommy Ramone, the only surviving member of the original band.
A tribute concert and cancer research fund-raiser was held Sunday in Los Angeles to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary. It featured performances by Los Angeles punk band X, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Henry Rollins and others.
Along with his wife, Linda Cummings, Johnny Ramone was surrounded at his death by friends Eddie and Jill Vedder, and Rob and Sherrie Zombie. Other friends who gathered at his Los Angeles home included Lisa Marie Presley, Pete Yorn, Vincent Gallo and Talia Shire.
More on Johnny Ramone, 1/7/04:
Graveyard statue honors late punk legend Johnny Ramone
LOS ANGELES - Late punk guitarist Johnny Ramone is being immortalized with a bronze statue at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Ramone, co-founder and guitarist of The Ramones, was 55 when he died of prostate cancer on Sept. 15, 2004, at his Los Angeles home. The statue is near the grave of bandmate Dee Dee Ramone, who died of a drug overdose in 2002.
The Johnny Ramone monument, created by artist Wayne Toth, shows Ramone playing his Mosrite guitar and it features the words, "If a man can judge success by how many great friends he has, then I have been very successful. - Johnny Ramone."
Ramone's widow Linda will unveil the statue Jan. 14 during a two-hour afternoon public ceremony featuring testimonials from friends. Johnny Ramone was cremated and his wife has the ashes, spokesman Jason Padgitt said Thursday.
Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for hundreds of Hollywood icons, including Rudolph Valentino, "Ten Commandments" producer Cecil B. DeMille and Bugs Bunny voice Mel Blanc.
The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
8/26/04 - Laura Branigan - (AP) EAST QUOGUE, N.Y. - Laura Branigan, a Grammy-nominated pop singer best known for her 1982 platinum hit “Gloria,” has died. She was 47.
Branigan died Thursday in her sleep at her home, said her manager, John Bowers. He would not disclose the cause, although her official Web site listed it as a brain aneurysm.
“Gloria,” a signature song from her debut album “Branigan,” stayed atop the pop charts for 36 weeks and earned her a Grammy nomination for best female pop vocalist, the first of four nominations in her career.
She also made television appearances, including guest spots on “CHIPS,” and in the films “Mugsy’s Girls” and “Backstage.”
Branigan released seven albums after her debut “Branigan,” including “Solitaire,” “Self Control,” and “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” which was co-written with Michael Bolton. Her songs also appeared on soundtracks for the films “Flashdance” and “Ghostbusters.”
Branigan, born July 3, 1957, and raised in Brewster, N.Y., attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan. During the late 1970s, she toured Europe as a backing vocalist for Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen. She signed as a solo artist with Atlantic Records in 1982.
After her run of success in the 1980s, her releases in the early 1990s attracted little attention. In 1994, she sang a duet with David Hasselhoff called “I Believe” for the soundtrack of the television show “Baywatch.” She released a 13-track “Best of Branigan” LP the next year.
After the death of her husband, Lawrence Kruteck, in 1996, Branigan stopped
performing but returned to the stage in 2001. In 2002 she starred as Janis
Joplin in the off-Broadway musical “Love, Janis,” which earned
her rave reviews.
Branigan recently had been working on material for a new release.
She is survived by her mother, two brothers and a sister. Funeral services were scheduled for Monday.
8/18/04 - Elmer Bernstein - LOS ANGELES -- Elmer Bernstein, the versatile, Oscar-winning composer who scored such movie classics as "The Ten Commandments," "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven" has died.
Bernstein was 82.
The composer's publicist Cathy Mouton said Bernstein died Wednesday in his sleep at his home after being in failing health for some time.
Bernstein was nominated for an Academy Award 14 times, most recently in 2002 for "Far From Heaven." His only win was for the 1967 film "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Among his Oscar-nominated scores were "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "The Magnificent Seven."
Born April 4, 1922, in New York City, Bernstein began scoring films and television shows in the early 1950s. His first film credit came in 1951 with "Saturday's Hero."
Also among Bernstein's film scores over the years were "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Man With the Golden Arm," "Birdman of Alcatraz," "The Great Escape," "Hawaii," "The Great Santini," "Stripes," "Caddyshack," "Airplane!" and "The Blues Brothers."
On television, he composed music for such shows as "General Electric Theater" and "Gunsmoke."
Bernstein, who also composed several works for symphony orchestras, was considered a revolutionary by many in the business.
8/12/04 - Julia Child - LOS ANGELES -- Julia Child, whose warbling, encouraging voice and able hands brought the intricacies of French cuisine to American home cooks through her television series and books, died in her sleep three days before what would have been her 92nd birthday.
"America has lost a true national treasure," Nicholas Latimer,
director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf publishing, said in a statement
Friday. "She will be missed terribly."
''America has lost a true national treasure,'' Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf publishing, said in a statement Friday. ''She will be missed terribly.''
The statement said she died Thursday at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. The cause of death was not given.
A 6-foot-2 American folk hero, ''The French Chef'' was known to her public as Julia, and preached a delight not only in good food but in sharing it, ending her landmark public television lessons at a set table and with the wish, ''Bon appetit.''
''Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal,'' she said in the introduction to her seventh book, ''The Way to Cook.'' ''In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.''
Chipper and unpretentious, she beckoned everyone to give good food a try. She wasn't always tidy in the kitchen, and just like the rest of us, she sometimes dropped things or had trouble getting a cake out of its mold.
In an A-line skirt and blouse, and an apron with a dish towel tucked into the waist, Julia Child grew familiar enough to be parodied by Dan Aykroyd on NBC's ''Saturday Night Live'' and the subject of Jean Stapleton's musical revue, ''Bon Appetit.'' She was on the cover of Time magazine in 1966.
Active and a frequent traveler in her 80s, Child credited good genes and a habit begun in her 40s of eating everything in moderation.
Susy Davidson, a consultant who worked with Child on ''Good Morning America,'' called Child's friendship a great gift.
''She's helped me redefine age, No. 1,'' Davidson once said. ''She is the standard by which I judge all professionals. She's always eager to learn something, to try something new. She just has this generosity of spirit.''
She was foremost a teacher and never lost sight of the goal set out in volume one of ''Mastering the Art of French Cooking'': ''Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction. Our hope is that this book will be helpful in giving that instruction.''
Like her friend James Beard, Child was influenced but not battered by the popularity of fast food, low-fat food, health food.
She aimed ''The Way to Cook'' at a new generation and while it offered plenty of recipes using butter and cream, it left room for experimentation and variation in its blend of classic French and free-style American techniques. It was a hit, with nearly 400,000 copies in print just four months after publication.
She worried, however, that the health craze was overdone.
''What's dangerous and discouraging about this era is that people really are afraid of their food,'' she told The Associated Press in 1989. ''Sitting down to dinner is a trap, not something to enjoy. People should take their food more seriously. Learn what you can eat and enjoy it thoroughly.''
Child did not take a cooking lesson until she was in her 30s. And she was in her 50s when her first television series began in 1963.
Born in Pasadena, Calif., Child once said she was raised on so-so cooking by hired cooks.
She graduated from Smith College in 1934 with a history degree and aspirations to be a novelist or a writer for the New Yorker magazine. Instead, she ended up in the publicity department of a New York City furniture and rug chain.
When World War II began, she joined the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. She was sent off to do clerical chores in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where she met Paul Child, a career diplomat who later became a photographer and painter, on the porch of a tea planter's bungalow in 1943.
They married in 1946 and two years later were sent to Paris.
Child enrolled in the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school, motivated at least in part by a desire to cook for her epicure husband. She was considered a bit odd by her friends, who all had hired help in the kitchen.
''I'd been looking for my life's work all along,'' she told the AP. ''And when I got into cooking I found it. I was inspired by the tremendous seriousness with which they took it.''
In France, she also met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she collaborated on ''Mastering the Art of French Cooking,'' which was nine years in the making and became mandatory for anyone who took cooking seriously.
It was published in 1961 and was followed by ''The French Chef Cookbook''; ''Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II,'' with Beck; ''From Julia Child's Kitchen''; ''Julia Child & Company''; ''Julia Child & More Company''; and ''The Way to Cook,'' in October 1989.
She was 51 when she made her television debut as ''The French Chef.'' The series began in 1963 and continued for 206 episodes. Child won a Peabody award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966, and went on to star in several more series for Boston's WGBH-TV.
Russell Morash, Child's director from the beginning, recalled her as ''spontaneous from the outset, a natural television talent - very relaxed but very professional.''
''I happened to be the right woman at the right time,'' she said, noting that John F. Kennedy had a French chef at the White House and more Americans were traveling abroad.
Since the 1980s, she devoted attention to promoting the serious study of food and cooking. She co-founded the American Institute of Wine and Food in San Francisco in 1981 and co-founded the James Beard Foundation in New York City in 1986.
More recently, she teamed with fellow television chef Jacques Pepin for the 1994 PBS special, ''Julia Child & Jacques Pepin: Cooking in Concert'' and a 1996 sequel, ''More Cooking in Concert.''
Paul Child died in 1994, and in late 2001, Julia Child, a longtime resident of Cambridge, Mass., moved to Santa Barbara. The couple had no children.
8/8/04 - Fay Wray - (WP) The actress Fay Wray, 96, who died Aug. 8 at her home in New York, will forever have a place in screen and scream history. She was the blonde damsel-in-distress in the original "King Kong" (1933), one of the greatest fright films of all time.
Ms. Wray had leading roles in about 75 other motion pictures between 1923 and 1958 -- 11 alone in 1933, including "King Kong." But none would so define her career as that classic tale about unrequited love between a virginal beauty and a giant ape.
She played Ann Darrow, an unemployed actress invited by a film producer on a long voyage to mysterious Skull Island. The producer uses Darrow as bait to capture Kong and then puts the towering creature on display for all New York to see. The plan goes awry as Kong starts on a big-city rampage in search of Darrow. In the end, he literally falls for her -- from the Empire State Building.
"It was beauty killed the beast," the producer moralizes.
As the beauty, Ms. Wray became a prototype of the horror-film heroine, a character who decorated more than dominated a movie and was gamely willing to shriek in terror.
The sexual suggestiveness of the wholesome and wide-eyed Ms. Wray screaming and squirming in Kong's firm, hirsute grip would become an often imitated and lampooned image of cinema lore. The film was remade in a 1976 with Jessica Lange as the leading lady and the World Trade Center's twin towers as the structure from which he plummets.
Ms. Wray said in her 1989 autobiography, "On the Other Hand," that "King Kong" saved RKO-Radio Pictures from bankruptcy. The American Film Institute honored the picture in 1998 as one of the greatest 100 American films of all time.
Initially, Ms. Wray thought of Cary Grant or Gary Cooper when co-director Merian C. Cooper gave the actress a teasing description of her co-star as the "tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood."
She soon discovered her tantalizing co-star was an 18-inch model made of metal, rubber, cotton and rabbit fur designed by animation expert Willis O'Brien. To film-goers, Kong appeared 40 feet tall through such techniques as rear-screen projection and stop-motion photography that O'Brien had pioneered on the set of "The Lost World" (1925), a silent drama about dinosaurs.
For close-ups, Ms. Wray was cupped in a six-foot-long mechanical device that doubled as Kong's arm and hand.
The process was so slow that she made the action film "The Most Dangerous Game" (1932) on the "Kong" set while waiting for O'Brien to complete his work.
Around that time, she starred in several other horror films, including "Doctor X" (1932), "The Vampire Bat" (1933) and "The Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933).
She largely retired from film in 1942, after a succession of undistinguished dramas and problems at home with her first husband, the drug-addicted writer John Monk Saunders.
She attempted a career in playwriting and did some stage acting. Those efforts, she said, led to romantic involvement with the playwright-screenwriter Clifford Odets. She said she also rejected the advances of Nobel Prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis, in whose play "Angela is Twenty-Two" she acted.
Although prolific onscreen, Ms. Wray told interviewers she had no illusions that "King Kong" was why she would be remembered.
"Being in the most famous movie of all time is my greeting card," she told the Toronto Star in 1990. "I finally got to lunch with Larry Olivier a few years back. Wouldn't talk a bit about Shakespeare to me. Only wanted to know how we'd made Kong climb the Empire State Building."
Born Vina Fay Wray in Alberta, Canada, Ms. Wray moved with her family to Arizona and Colorado before she left for Los Angeles with a guardian. While a teenager, she was an extra in two- and four-reel Westerns and Hal Roach comedies.
A major break came in 1928, with the release of Erich von Stroheim's hit epic "The Wedding March." The famed director said he did not even bother to test Ms. Wray for the part, citing her enormous sex appeal. He cast himself as a prince and her as a peasant girl.
She then worked with some of the most-renowned directors of the period, usually on fast-paced, action-oriented fare. Among them were Josef von Sternberg ("Thunderbolt," 1929), George Abbott ("The Sea God," 1930) and Frank Capra ("Dirigible," 1931).
In 1934, she had key roles in some minor classics, including "The Clairvoyant" with Claude Rains, "Viva Villa!" with Wallace Beery as Pancho Villa and the comedy "The Affairs of Cellini" with Fredric March.
Her marriage to Saunders ended in divorce in 1939, and he killed himself the next year. Her second husband, the writer Robert Riskin, died in 1955, and her third husband, neurosurgeon Sanford Rothenberg, died in 1991.
Survivors include a daughter from her first marriage; two children from the second marriage.
Note from the Underground:
Fay Wray was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She is in section
8 (Garden of Legends), near Hattie McDaniel's monument. Thanks to Underground
members Kim Eazell and Roger Sinclair for the information.
8/6/04 - Rick James - LOS ANGELES (AP)- Funk legend Rick James, best known for the 1981 hit “Super Freak” before his career disintegrated amid drug use and violence that sent him to prison, died Friday. He was 56.
James died in his sleep at his residence near Universal City, said publicist Sujata Murthy. James lived alone and was found dead by his personal assistant, who notified police, she said.
Police and Murthy believe James died of natural causes. The exact cause was not immediately released.
“There’ll be an autopsy and we’ll find that out shortly,” Murthy said.
Publicist Maureen O’Connor, speaking on behalf of James’ three children, said they believed he died of heart failure.
“He passed away peacefully in his sleep,” O’Connor said.
'He made a lot of people happy'
“I think he was really fantastic, he was a creator,” singer Little Richard told MSNBC.
“He made a lot of people happy, he made a lot of friends and a lot of people got famous through his music,” he said, referring to sampling by hip-hop artists such as MC Hammer, who used the “Super Freak” bass line in his hit “U Can’t Touch This.”
The song earned James and Hammer the Grammy for best R&B song in 1990.
“Today the world mourns a musician and performer of the funkiest kind,” said Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. “Grammy winner Rick James was a singer, songwriter and producer whose performances were always as dynamic as his personality. The ‘Super Freak’ of funk will be missed.”
James had hit songs and albums from the 1970s into the ’80s, but by the following decade his fame began to fade as he became embroiled in legal problems and health troubles.
James was convicted in 1993 of assaulting two women. The first attack occurred in 1991 when he restrained and burned a young woman with a hot pipe during a cocaine binge at his house in West Hollywood. He was free on bail when the second assault occurred in 1992 in James’ hotel room.
James served more than two years in Folsom Prison.
In 1997, he released a new album, but a year later he suffered a stroke while performing at Denver’s Mammoth Events Center, derailing a comeback tour.
In 1998 he also underwent hip replacement surgery.
James was born James A. Johnson Jr. in Buffalo, N.Y. He had long been reported to have been born in 1952, but according to his Web site and police he was born on Feb. 1, 1948.
James went to work for Motown in the 1970s and got the chance to record an album, “Come and Get It,” which was released in 1978 and produced the hit “You and I.” He followed with “Bustin’ out of L Seven,” which had a hit with the single “Bustin’ Out,” and another popular LP, “Fire it Up.”
His hits in 1980 included the album “Garden of Love” and the singles “Fool on the Street,” “Love Gun,” “Come into My Life,” and “Big Time.” The following year came the well-received album “Street Songs” and the hits “Give It to Me Baby” and “Super Freak.”
After a decade at Motown, James left the label as the sexually graphic themes of his music conflicted with the company’s conservative approach to pop music.
“They never totally understood what I was trying to do, where I was trying to come from with my music,” he said in a 1988 interview with The Associated Press. “For the whole 10 years, it was a constant battle in me trying to acquaint them with what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.”
At the time he said he had freed himself from a cocaine addiction that threatened his life.
“There was a bad period in my life some years ago when I got into a serious cocaine habit; $10,000 to $15,000 a week,” he said. “I didn’t really see it. My lawyers and my accountants and friends really saw it before I did. They saw that my usage of coke was getting to be a million-dollar-a-year habit. I didn’t see it until I went into rehab and I didn’t understand it until I got out.”
James said he got caught up in living the “bad boy” persona he had cultivated.
“There was a time where I was just trying to live the image wholeheartedly; I wasn’t thinking about the person, James Johnson,” he said. “I mean, Rick James was just a man-made image, the image I created. Just trying to live Rick James almost killed me.”
James was not married, Murthy said. He is survived by daughter Ty, sons Rick Jr. and Tazman, and granddaughters Jasmine and Charisma.
Note from the Underground: Rick James will be buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY. Thanks to Underground member Kim Eazel of GravesRUs.com for the information.
More on Rick James:
N.Y. funeral, burial set for funk singer Rick James
The Associated Press
August 12th, 2004
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Rick James, the Buffalo-born funk singer best known for the hit "Super Freak," will be buried Saturday at Forest Lawn Cemetery following a funeral service here.
James died in his sleep Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 56.
There will be a public viewing from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at St. John Baptist Church followed immediately by a funeral service.
Burial will follow.
A public viewing was scheduled Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, followed by a memorial service there at 11 a.m. today
An autopsy failed to determine the cause of death.
James had a history of cocaine addiction that led to two assault convictions in the 1990s and a two-year stretch in prison.
Coroner’s officials were awaiting results of a toxicology test, which they said could take several weeks.
7/31/04 - Virginia Grey - Virginia Grey, who began acting in silent films as a child, playing Little Eva in the 1927 version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and was on television from its infancy in such shows as the 1948 "Ford Theatre Hour," has died. She was 87.
Grey, who performed in more than 100 motion pictures and dozens of television shows over more than four decades, died Saturday of heart failure at the Motion Picture & Television Fund facility where she lived.
Born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, Grey was the daughter of film actor and director Ray Grey, who died when she was 8, and Florence Grey, who became a Universal film cutter.
One of young Virginia's earliest baby-sitters was actress Gloria Swanson. In addition to her debut role as Little Eva, Grey worked with Mary Pickford in the 1933 film "Secrets" and with others in such silent movies as "The Michigan Kid" and "Jazz Mad."
After several years of schooling, including intensive dance training, the blue-eyed and copper-haired Grey returned to the screen as a curvaceous chorine in "The Great Ziegfeld" in 1936. She also appeared with George Murphy the same year in "Violets in Spring."
Grey had leading roles in B pictures and second lead parts in a few mainstream musicals and films, including the 1943 film "Sweet Rosie O'Grady," starring Betty Grable. Her last well-known film was "Airport" in 1970.
On television, after starting out in dramatic anthologies, Grey made occasional guest appearances on such popular series as "Bonanza," "The Virginian," "My Three Sons" and "Love, American Style."
Grey never married. Information on immediate survivors was unavailable.
7/22/04 - Jerry Goldsmith - LOS ANGELES (AP) — Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith, who created the memorable music for scores of classic movies and television shows ranging from the "Star Trek" and "Planet of the Apes" series to "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "Perry Mason," has died. He was 75.
Goldsmith died in his sleep Wednesday night at his Beverly Hills home after a long battle with cancer, said Lois Carruth, his personal assistant.
A classically trained composer and conductor who began musical studies at age 6, Goldsmith's award-dappled Hollywood career — he was nominated for 17 Academy Awards, won one, and also took home five Emmys — spanned nearly half a century.
He crafted an astonishing number of TV and movie scores that have become classics in their own right. From the clarions of "Patton" to the syrupy theme for TV's "The Waltons," Goldsmith sometimes seemed virtually synonymous with soundtracks.
He took on action hits such as "Total Recall," which he considered one of his best scores, as well as the "Star Trek" movies and more lightweight fare, like his most recent movie theme, for last year's "Looney Tunes: Back in Action."
Goldsmith's output also spilled into television, with the themes for shows including "Dr. Kildare," "Barnaby Jones" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Goldsmith also wrote a fanfare that is used in Academy Awards telecasts.
He won his Oscar for best original score in 1976 for "The Omen." He also earned five Emmy Awards and was nominated for nine Golden Globe awards, though he never won one.
Some of his motion picture scores were adapted for ballets. Goldsmith also wrote composed orchestral pieces and taught occasional music classes at universities.
7/9/04 - Isabel Sanford - LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Actress Isabel Sanford, best known as "Weezie," Louise Jefferson on the television sitcom "The Jeffersons," died of natural causes, her publicist said Monday. She was 86.
Sanford died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she had been hospitalized since July 4, said Brad Lemack. Her daughter, Pamela Ruff, was at her side, he said.
Her health had waned after undergoing preventive surgery on a neck artery 10 months ago, Lemack said. He did not give a specific cause of death.
Sanford co-starred with Sherman Hemsley from 1975 to 1985 on CBS' "The Jeffersons," a spin-off of the popular series "All in the Family," in which she also appeared.
In 1981, Sanford became the first black woman to receive an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on "The Jeffersons."
Sanford, a native New Yorker, was joined by "Jeffersons" creator Norman Lear and others in January when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"Here with stars in my eyes -- something that I dreamed about when I was 9 years old," she said at the time. "There are others that deserve it, but let everybody get their own."
She enjoyed getting fan mail from people who saw "The Jeffersons" for the first time in reruns, Lemack said.
"She was just amazed and so pleased that the show had that kind of lasting power and entertainment because she loved to make people laugh," he said.
Sanford also played Tillie, the maid to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's Matt and Christina Drayton, in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967) -- her feature film debut.
Recently, she lent her voice to "The Simpsons" and appeared in commercial campaigns for Denny's restaurants and retailer Old Navy.
Besides her daughter, Sanford is survived by two sons, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Her funeral will be private, although plans for a public memorial are pending,
Sanford's publicist Brad Lemack said in a statement.
7/6/04 - Eric Douglas - NEW YORK -- Oscar-winning actor Kirk Douglas' youngest son, who battled drug and alcohol problems for years, was found dead Tuesday afternoon inside a Manhattan apartment building, police said.
Eric Anthony Douglas, 46, was discovered after someone flagged down a passing police car outside 10 E. 29th St., police said. There were no signs of foul play, they said. The medical examiner was to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Douglas was an aspiring actor and comedian, but he never found the success of his father or of his Academy Award-winning sibling, Michael Douglas. He had a short-lived acting career in the 1980s and early '90s, playing supporting roles in movies such as "Delta Force 3: The Killing Game."
He also appeared in an episode of the HBO program "Tales From the Crypt" opposite his father, who earned an Emmy nomination for his role on the show.
But in recent years, the youngest of Kirk Douglas' four sons drew attention more for his problems than for any performances. In a 2000 interview, he said he spent eight days in a coma after a pill overdose a year earlier.
For years before that, he struggled against drug and alcohol addictions while repeatedly clashing with the law. He spent time behind bars and in rehabilitation clinics.
In 1997, he pleaded guilty to a cocaine possession charge after his arrest for accepting a shipment of more than 1,000 anti-depressant pills. The arresting officers found he was carrying 11 vials of crack when he was taken into custody.
A year earlier, he spent the night in jail after smashing his rental car into two vehicles in an alleged drunken-driving incident.
In 1996, he spent a month in jail after a bizarre flight from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J., in which he allowed his dog to roam the airplane while he became "loud and verbally abusive" toward the crew, authorities said.
There also were allegations that he physically assaulted a limousine driver, a fellow patient at a psychiatric hospital and a Minneapolis police officer. He was sued by the driver and was acquitted of the latter two charges.
Michael Douglas captured an Academy Award for producing the 1975 best picture, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and won again in 1987 for best actor in "Wall Street." Kirk Douglas won an honorary Oscar in 1995.
Note From the Underground: Eric Douglas was laid to rest at Westwood Memorial Park. Thanks to Underground member Kim Eazell of GravesRUs.com for the info!
7/1/04 - Marlon Brando - LOS ANGELES - Marlon Brando, who revolutionized Hollywood’s image of a leading man playing street-tough, emotionally raw characters in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront” and then revived his career a generation later as the definitive Mafia don in “The Godfather,” died at 80.
The reclusive Brando died of lung failure at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at UCLA Medical Center, according to hospital spokeswoman Roxanne Moster.
Brando, whose unpredictable behavior made him equally fascinating off the screen, was acclaimed the greatest actor of his generation, a two-time winner of the Academy Award who influenced some of the best actors of the generation that followed, among them Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.
“Marlon would hate the idea of people chiming in to give their comments about his death. All I’ll say is that it makes me sad he’s gone,” said Francis Ford Coppola, who directed “The Godfather.”
Brando was the unforgettable embodiment of the brutish Stanley Kowalski of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the mixed up Terry Malloy of “On the Waterfront” (which won him his first Oscar) and the wily Corleone of “The Godfather.”
But his private life may best be defined by a line from “The Wild One,” in which Brando, playing a motorcycle gang leader, is asked what he’s rebelling against.
“Whattaya got?” was his famous reply.
His image was a studio’s nightmare. Millions of words were written about his weight, his many romances and three marriages, his tireless — and, for some, tiresome — support of the American Indian and other causes, his battles with film producers and directors, his refuge on a Tahitian isle.
His most famous act of rebellion was his refusal in 1973 to accept the best actor Oscar for “The Godfather.” Instead, he sent a woman who called herself Sasheen Littlefeather to read a diatribe about Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans.
It was roundly booed.
Tragic private life
Brando’s private life turned tragic years later with his son’s conviction for killing the boyfriend of his half sister, Cheyenne Brando, in 1990. Five years later, Cheyenne committed suicide, still depressed over the killing.
Still, the undying spotlight never made him conform.
“I am myself,” he once declared, “and if I have to hit my head against a brick wall to remain true to myself, I will do it.”
Nothing could diminish his reputation as an actor of startling power and invention.
Starting with Kowalski in the stage version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a startling series of screen portrayals, Brando changed the nature of American acting.
Schooled at the Actors Studio in New York, he created a naturalism that was sometimes derided for its mumbling, grungy attitudes. But audiences were electrified, and a new generation of actors adopted his style.
“He influenced more young actors of my generation than any actor,” longime friend and “Godfather” co-star James Caan said Friday through his publicist. “Anyone who denies this never understood what it was all about.”
Marlon Brando Jr. came from the American heartland, born in Omaha, Neb., on April 3, 1924. He was a distant, conservative man of French, English and Irish stock; the original family name was Brandeau.
His mother, the former Dorothy Pennebaker, was small, willowy, compassionate and filled with creative energy. Her ambitions often were unrealized, and she underwent periods of problem drinking. She had given birth to two daughters, Frances and Jocelyn, before Marlon was born.
He grew up a pudgy, mischievous boy who was called Bud to distinguish him from his father. Jocelyn was charged with getting Bud to kindergarten, a difficult task. She solved it by leading him on a leash.
Introduced to theater early
Young Marlon first became exposed to the theater through his mother, who became a leader and occasional actress in the Omaha Community Playhouse. When a leading man dropped out of a play, she pleaded with a young neighbor just home from college to take the role. Henry Fonda reluctantly agreed. Mrs. Brando also encouraged another young Omaha native, Dorothy McGuire.
The lives of Dorothy Brando and her children were upset when the father was transferred to Evanston, Ill., when Bud was 6. The family later moved to Santa Ana, Calif., and finally to Libertyville, Ill.
Bud was constantly being reprimanded for misbehavior at school, infuriating his father. The boy also displayed a talent for playacting, both in elaborate pranks and in plays and recitations. He proved a skilled pantomimist, especially in his depiction of the death of John Dillinger.
His exasperated father sent the boy to military school in an effort to instill discipline. He was expelled. Unable to join the war because of 4-F status, Brando at 19 moved to New York and stayed with his sister Frances, an art student.
Jocelyn Brando studied acting with Stella Adler, and Marlon decided to join her. It changed his life. After a week with the young man, Adler declared: “Within a year, Marlon Brando will be the best young actor in the American theater.”
It took longer. He appeared in such plays as “I Remember Mama,” “A Flag is Born” (a Jewish pageant with Paul Muni) and “Truckline Cafe.” The latter was directed by Elia Kazan, who would remember him for “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1947.
The Tennessee Williams play made Brando famous, and his first signs of discomfort emerged. The press made much of his motorcycle, leather jackets and T-shirts, his bongo drum playing. He hated the clamor of fans and suffered through interviews.
The image of Stanley seemed to have fallen on Brando, and he once protested to an interviewer: “Kowalski was always right, and never afraid. He never wondered, he never doubted. His ego was very secure. And he had the kind of brutal aggressiveness that I hate. I’m afraid of it. I detest the character.”
Brando suffered through the tedium of his two-year contract with “Streetcar,” and he never appeared in another play. For his first film he declined several big studio offers and joined independent Stanley Kramer for “The Men” in 1950. To research the story of paraplegic war veterans, he spent a month in a Veterans Administration hospital.
His impact on screen acting was demonstrated by Academy nominations as best actor in four successive years: as Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951); as the Mexican revolutionary in “Viva Zapata!” (1952); as Marc Anthony in “Julius Caesar” (1953); and as Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” (1954).
Reclusive figure in Hollywood
Although he remained in Hollywood, he refused to be part of it.
“Hollywood is ruled by fear and love of money,” he told a reporter. “But it can’t rule me because I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”
His films after “Waterfront” failed to challenge his unique talent. Most were commercial enterprises: “Desiree,” “Guys and Dolls,” “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” “Sayonara,” “The Young Lions.” He tried directing himself in a Western, “One-eyed Jacks,” going wildly over budget.
A remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1962, with Brando as Fletcher Christian, seemed to bolster his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in directors and a runaway budget though he disclaimed responsibility for either.
The “Bounty” experience affected Brando’s life in a profound way: he fell in love with Tahiti and its people. Tahitian beauty Tarita who appeared in the film became his third wife and mother of two of his children. He bought an island, Tetiaroa, which he intended to make part environmental laboratory and part resort.
Although he remained a leading star, Brando’s career waned in the ’60s with a series of failures. He was impressive, however, in several movies, among them the comedy “Bedtime Story” and the John Huston drama “Reflections in a Golden Eye.”
His box office power seemed finished until Coppola chose him to play Mafia leader Corleone in “The Godfather” in 1972. The film was an overwhelming critical and commercial success and Brando’s jowly, raspy-voiced Don became one of the screen’s most unforgettable characters.
“I don’t think the film is about the Mafia at all,” Brando told Newsweek. “I think it is about the corporate mind. In a way, the Mafia is the best example of capitalists we have.”
The actor followed with “Last Tango in Paris.” One of his greatest performances was overshadowed by an uproar over the erotic nature of the Bernardo Bertolucci film.
Emotionally drained by 'Tango'
In his memoir, “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” Brando wrote of being emotionally drained by “Last Tango,” an improvised film which included several autobiographical speeches.
Most of his later films were undistinguished. One hundred pounds heavier, he hired himself out at huge salaries for such commercial enterprises as “Superman” and “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.”
He was more effective as the insane army officer in Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and parodying his “Godfather” role in the hit comedy “The Freshman.”
His crusades for civil rights, the American Indian and other causes kept him in the public eye throughout his career. So did his romances and marriages. He married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957, believing her to be East Indian. She was revealed to be Irish, and they separated a year later.
In 1960 he married a Mexican actress, Movita, who had appeared in the first “Mutiny on the Bounty.” They were divorced after he met Tarita. All three wives were pregnant when he married them. He had nine children.
In May 1990, Brando’s first son, Christian, shot and killed Dag Drollet, 26, the Tahitian lover of Christian’s half sister Cheyenne, at the family’s hilltop home above Beverly Hills. Christian, 31, claimed the shooting was accidental.
After a heavily publicized trial, Christian was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and use of a gun. He was sentenced to 10 years.
Before the sentencing, Marlon Brando delivered an hour of rambling testimony in which he said he and his ex-wife had failed Christian. He commented softly to members of the Drollet family: “I’m sorry. ... If I could trade places with Dag, I would. I’m prepared for the consequences.”
Afterward, Drollet’s father said he thought Marlon Brando was acting and his son was “getting away with murder.”
The tragedy was compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, said to still be depressed over Drollet’s death, committed suicide. She was 25.
Details about funeral plans weren’t disclosed and Seeley said arrangements would be private.
Note from the Underground - Marlon Brando was cremated and scattered in both Death Valley and his private island in Tahiti. The remains of his friend, actor Wally Cox, were also scattered with him.
From the Associated Press, 9/22/04:
Brando’s ashes scattered in Tahiti, Death Valley
LOS ANGELES - The ashes of legendary actor Marlon Brando were spread in Tahiti and Death Valley, according to a newspaper report.
A memorial service for Brando, who died of lung failure at age 80 on July 1, was held at the home of Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy and was attended by Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn, the Los Angeles Times reported in Wednesday editions.
In the last months before his death, Brando had dropped 85 pounds from his once-large frame and needed a portable oxygen tank to aid his breathing, family members and friends said. But he sought to keep his condition quiet.
Some of Brando’s ashes were scattered in Death Valley, a place that the actor cherished, his son Miko Brando told the newspaper. The ashes of Brando’s late friend Wally Cox, who died in 1973, were also poured onto the desert landscape as part of the same ceremony; how Cox’s ashes were in the possession of Brando’s family was unknown.
Despite being known as a recluse, Brando ventured to Neverland Ranch more than a year before he died to visit pop star Michael Jackson, whom he’d first met through Quincy Jones in the 1980s. Jackson is the godfather of Brando’s 9-year-old granddaughter Prudence.
“The last time my father left his house to go anywhere, to spend any kind of time, it was with Michael Jackson,” Miko Brando, a longtime Jackson employee, told the newspaper.
Brando’s son also spoke of how friends and family will try to preserve the actor’s legacy. Most notable is a collection of DVDs based on unreleased footage shot within the past three years showing Brando teach acting to Jon Voight, Nick Nolte and Penn.
Also being discussed is cataloging hundreds of pencil drawings made by Brando and obtaining trademarks on the actor’s name and likeness.
**Previous reports were that the only place he would be scattered was in
From an April 2004 article on MSN:
"Brando names island as final resting place
Movie legend Marlon Brando reportedly wants his ashes scattered on the South Pacific island of Tetiaroa when he dies, because only two people live there.
The star, who is suffering from congestive heart failure, has told family and friends he doesn’t want to be buried in a Hollywood celebrity cemetery because he detests the idea of becoming a tourist attraction.
And now, according to a Brando family source, the actor has settled on a scattering ceremony on the private island, where his son Simon Tehotu and former partner Teriipia are the only inhabitants.
The island is no longer accessible after the only airline service to the area cancelled its flights at the beginning of the year due to runway problems.
Source: MSN "
6/10/04 - Ray Charles - BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Ray Charles, the Grammy-winning crooner who blended gospel and blues in such crowd-pleasers as "What'd I Say" and ballads like "Georgia on My Mind," died Thursday, a spokesman said. He was 73.
Charles died at his Beverly Hills home surrounded by family and friends, said spokesman Jerry Digney.
Charles last public appearance was alongside Clint Eastwood on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer's studios, built 40 years ago in central Los Angeles, as a historic landmark.
Blind by age 7 and an orphan at 15, Charles spent his life shattering any notion of musical boundaries and defying easy definition. A gifted pianist and saxophonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues, and put his stamp on it all with a deep, warm voice roughened by heartbreak from a hardscrabble childhood in the segregated South.
His sound was stunning - it was the blues, it was R&B, it was gospel, it was swing - it was all the stuff I was listening to before that but rolled into one amazing, soulful thing," singer Van Morrison told Rolling Stone magazine in April.
Charles won nine of his 12 Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years ("Hit the Road Jack,""I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted").
His versions of other songs are also well known, including "Makin' Whoopee" and a stirring "America the Beautiful." Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell wrote "Georgia on My Mind" in 1931 but it didn't become Georgia's official state song until 1979, long after Charles turned it into an American standard.
"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of," Charles said in his 1978 autobiography, "Brother Ray.""Music was one of my parts ... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me, like food or water."
Charles considered Martin Luther King Jr. a friend and once refused to play to segregated audiences in South Africa. But politics didn't take.
He was happiest playing music, smiling and swaying behind the piano as his legs waved in rhythmic joy. His appeal spanned generations: He teamed with such disparate musicians as Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan and Eric Clapton, and appeared in movies including "The Blues Brothers." Pepsi tapped him for TV spots around a simple "uh huh" theme, perhaps playing off the grunts and moans that pepper his songs.
"The way I see it, we're actors, but musical ones," he once told The Associated Press. "We're doing it with notes, and lyrics with notes, telling a story. I can take an audience and get 'em into a frenzy so they'll almost riot, and yet I can sit there so you can almost hear a pin drop."
Charles was no angel. He could be mercurial and his womanizing was legendary. He also struggled with a heroin addiction for nearly 20 years before quitting cold turkey in 1965 after an arrest at the Boston airport. Yet there was a sense of humor about even that - he released both "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Let's Go Get Stoned" in 1966.
He later became reluctant to talk about the drug use, fearing it would taint how people thought of his work.
"I've known times where I've felt terrible, but once I get to the stage and the band starts with the music, I don't know why but it's like you have pain and take an aspirin, and you don't feel it no more," he once said.
Ray Charles Robinson was born Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. His father, Bailey Robinson, was a mechanic and a handyman, and his mother, Aretha, stacked boards in a sawmill. His family moved to Gainesville, Fla., when Charles was an infant.
"Talk about poor," Charles once said. "We were on the bottom of the ladder."
Charles saw his brother drown in the tub his mother used to do laundry when he was about 5 as the family struggled through poverty at the height of the Depression. His sight was gone two years later. Glaucoma is often mentioned as a cause, though Charles said nothing was ever diagnosed. He said his mother never let him wallow in pity.
"When the doctors told her that I was gradually losing my sight, and that I wasn't going to get any better, she started helping me deal with it by showing me how to get around, how to find things," he said in the autobiography. "That made it a little bit easier to deal with."
Charles began dabbling in music at 3, encouraged by a cafe owner who played the piano. The knowledge was basic, but he was that much more prepared for music classes when he was sent away, heartbroken, to the state-supported St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Charles learned to read and write music in Braille, score for big bands and play instruments - lots of them, including trumpet, clarinet, organ, alto sax and the piano.
"Learning to read music in Braille and play by ear helped me develop a damn good memory," Charles said. "I can sit at my desk and write a whole arrangement in my head and never touch the piano. .. There's no reason for it to come out any different than the way it sounds in my head."
His early influences were myriad: Chopin and Sibelius, country and western stars he heard on the Grand Ole Opry, the powerhouse big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, jazz greats Art Tatum and Artie Shaw.
By the time he was 15 his parents were dead and Charles had graduated from St. Augustine. He wound up playing gigs in black dance halls - the so-called chitlin' circuit - and exposed himself to a variety of music, including hillbilly (he learned to yodel) before moving to Seattle.
He dropped his last name in deference to boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, patterned himself for a time after Nat "King" Cole and formed a group that backed rhythm 'n' blues singer Ruth Brown. It was in Seattle's red light district were he met a young Quincy Jones, showing the future producer and composer how to write music. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Charles developed quickly in those early days. Atlantic Records purchased his contract from Swingtime Records in 1952, and two years later he recorded "I Got a Woman," a raw mixture of gospel and rhythm 'n' blues, inventing what was later called soul. Soon, he was being called "The Genius" and was playing at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival.
His first big hit was 1959's "What'd I Say," a song built off a simple piano riff with suggestive moaning from the Raeletts. Some U.S. radio stations banned the song, but Charles was on his way to stardom.
Veteran producer Jerry Wexler, who recorded "What'd I Say," said he has worked with only three geniuses in the music business: Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Charles.
"In each case they brought something new to the table," Wexler told the San Jose Mercury News in 1994. Charles "had this blasphemous idea of taking gospel songs and putting the devil's words to them. ... He can take a gem from Tin Pan Alley or cut to the country, but he brings the same root to it, which is black American music."
Charles released "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Volumes 1 and 2" in the early '60s, a big switch from his gospel work. It included "Born to Lose,""Take These Chains From My Heart (And Set Me Free)" and "I Can't Stop Loving You," some of the biggest hits of his career.
He made it a point to explore each medium he took on. Country sides were sometimes pop-oriented, while fiddle, mandolin, banjo and steel guitar were added to "Wish You Were Here Tonight" in the '80s. Jones even wrote a choral and orchestral work for Charles to perform with the Roanoke, Va., symphony.
Charles' last Grammy came in 1993 for "A Song for You," but he never dropped out of the music scene. He continued to tour and long treasured time for chess. He once told the Los Angeles Times: "I'm not Spassky, but I'll make it interesting for you."
"Music's been around a long time, and there's going to be music long after Ray Charles is dead," he told the Washington Post in 1983. "I just want to make my mark, leave something musically good behind. If it's a big record, that's the frosting on the cake, but music's the main meal."
Message from the Underground: Services for Ray Charles will be at the First AME Church and then he will be buried at Inglewood Memorial Park in Inglewood, CA. Thanks to Underground members Reed and Jon for the information!
6/5/04 - Ronald Reagan - LOS ANGELES (June 5) - Ronald Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was ''morning again in America,'' died Saturday after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
''My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer's disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone's prayers,'' Nancy Reagan said in a statement.
Nancy Reagan, along with children Ron and Patti Davis, were at the couple's Los Angeles home when Reagan died at 1 p.m. PDT of pneumonia complicated by Alzheimer's disease, said Joanne Drake, who represents the family. Son Michael arrived a short time later, she said.
In Paris, President Bush called Reagan's death ''a sad day for America.''
The U.S. flag over the White House - along with flags elsewhere - was lowered to half-staff. At ballparks and at the Belmont Stakes, there were moments of silence.
Five years after leaving office, the nation's 40th president told the world in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, an incurable illness that destroys brain cells. He said he had begun ''the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.''
Reagan's body was expected to be taken to his presidential library and museum in Simi Valley, Calif., and then flown to Washington to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. His funeral was expected to be at the National Cathedral, an event likely to draw world leaders. The body was to be returned to California for a sunset burial at his library.
Reagan began his life in a four-room apartment over the general store in Tampico, Ill. During his 93 years, he was a radio sports announcer, an actor, a two-term governor of California and a crusader for conservative politics.
Over two presidential terms, from 1981 to 1989, Reagan reshaped the Republican Party in his conservative image, fixed his eye on the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism and tripled the national debt to $3 trillion in his singleminded competition with the other superpower.
''Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired,'' former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said Saturday.
At the time of Reagan's retirement, his very name suggested a populist brand of conservative politics that still inspires the Republican Party.
He declared at the outset, ''Government is not the solution, it's the problem,'' although reducing that government proved harder to do in reality than in his rhetoric.
Even so, he challenged the status quo on welfare and other programs that had put government on a growth spurt ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal strengthened the federal presence in the lives of average Americans.
In foreign affairs, he built the arsenals of war while seeking and achieving arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.
In his second term, Reagan was dogged by revelations that he authorized secret arms sales to Iran while seeking Iranian aid to gain release of American hostages held in Lebanon. Some of the money was used to aid rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.
Despite the ensuing investigations, he left office in 1989 with the highest popularity rating of any retiring president in the history of modern-day public opinion polls.
That reflected, in part, his uncommon ability as a communicator and his way of connecting with ordinary Americans, even as his policies infuriated the left and as his simple verities made him the butt of jokes. ''Morning again in America'' became his re-election campaign mantra in 1984, but typified his appeal to patriotrism through both terms.
Reagan's presidency overlaid the spendthrift 1980s, tagged by some as the ''Greed Decade.'' It was a time of conspicuous consumption, hostile takeovers, new billionaires. American power was ascendant after the angst of the 1970s over Vietnam and the release of the hostages in Iran at the start of his presidency.
In large ways and small - from the president's tough talk against the Evil Empire and ''welfare queens'' to his wife's designer dresses and new china for the White House - the Reagans seemed to embody the times.
And for all the glowing talk of Reagan's folksy appeal and infectious optimism, it was a time of growing division between rich and poor. Now, as then, critics point to Reaganomics in lamenting big defense spending at the expense of domestic needs and a growing national debt.
Reagan, a Democrat in his acting days, got a taste of politics when he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952.
He appeared in more than 50 films over two decades in Hollywood, with roles ranging from a college professor who raises a chimpanzee in ''Bedtime for Bonzo'' to doomed football star George Gipp in ''Knute Rockne: All-American'' in which he wanted his teammates to ''win just one for the Gipper.''
Reagan lived longer than any U.S. president, spending his last decade in the shrouded seclusion wrought by his disease, tended by his wife, Nancy, whom he called Mommy, and the select few closest to him. Now, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the surviving ex-presidents.
''Ronald Reagan was an excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Nancy and his family,'' Ford said.
Clinton called Reagan ''a true American original.''
Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry said that Reagan's ''love of country was infectious. Even when he was breaking Democrats hearts, he did so with a smile and in the spirit of honest and open debate.''
Although she was fiercely protective of Reagan's privacy, Nancy Reagan let people know the former president's mental condition had deteriorated terribly. Last month, she said: ''Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him.''
At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president when he was chosen in 1980, by an unexpectedly large margin over the incumbent Carter.
Near-tragedy struck on his 70th day as president. On March 30, 1981, Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after addressing labor leaders when a young drifter, John Hinckley, fired six shots at him. A bullet lodged an inch from Reagan's heart, but he recovered.
Four years later he was re-elected by an even greater margin, carrying 49 of the 50 states in defeating Democrat Walter F. Mondale, Carter's vice president.
Reagan's oldest daughter, Maureen, from his first marriage, died in August 2001 at age 60 from cancer. Three other children survive: Michael, from his first marriage, and Patti Davis and Ron from his second.
5/25/04 - Richad Biggs - Richard Biggs, who played Dr. Stephen Franklin on "Babylon 5" and also had a long run on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives," died Saturday. He was 44, according to the actor's Web site.
A posting on a "Babylon 5" message board by J. Michael Straczynski, the sci-fi show's creator, said the cause of death has not been determined but that "paramedics who showed up suggested it was either an aneurysm or a massive stroke."
Biggs, a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Theatre, gained his first major exposure as Dr. Marcus Hunter on "Days of Our Lives." He was on the NBC show for five years.
He also appeared on Lifetime's "Any Day Now" and "Strong Medicine." Most recently, he played Clayton Boudreaux on the CBS soap opera "Guiding Light."
"Babylon 5" fans and staff were shocked by his passing.
"Richard was a consummate professional, but more than that he was an honorable, stand-up guy," Straczynski wrote in his posting. "He was, quite simply, a terrific guy, and everyone here is just devastated at the news."
Biggs is survived by his wife, Lori Gerber, and two sons.
5/18/04 - Tony Randall - NEW YORK - Tony Randall (news), the comic actor best known for playing fastidious photographer Felix Unger on "The Odd Couple," has died. He was 84. Randall died in his sleep Monday night at NYU Medical Center of complications from a long illness, according to his publicity firm, Springer Associates.
He is survived by his wife, Heather Harlan Randall, who made him a father
the first time at age 77, and their two children, 7-year-old Julia Laurette and
5-year-old Jefferson Salvini.
Randall won an Emmy for playing Unger on the sitcom based on Neil Simon's
and movie. The show ran from 1970-75, but Randall won after it had been
canceled, prompting him to quip at the awards ceremony: "I'm so happy I won. Now
if I only had a job."
The show's charm sprang from Randall's chemistry and conflict with Jack Klugman
(news) as sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, with whom he's forced to share an
apartment after both men get divorced.
Before that, Randall was best known as the fastidious "best friend"
several Rock Hudson (news)-Doris Day (news) movies, including 1959's "Pillow
Talk" and 1961's "Lover Come Back."
The actor became a fixture on David Letterman's late-night talk shows, appearing
a record 70 times on the "Late Show" alone. He made fun of his own prim image by
taking part in Letterman's wacky antics, including allowing himself to be
covered in mud.
And in 1993, when Conan O'Brien took over the time slot at NBC that Letterman
had vacated for a new show at CBS, Randall was a guest on O'Brien's debut
After "The Odd Couple," Randall had two short-lived sitcoms, one
of which was
"The Tony Randall Show," in which he played a stuffy Philadelphia judge, from
From 1981-83, he played the title role in the sitcom "Love, Sidney,"
single, middle-aged commercial artist helping a female friend care for her young
The show was based on a TV movie in which Sidney was gay; in the TV show,
character's sexual orientation was implied, but never specified. This occurred
more than a decade before the much-hyped coming-out on "Ellen" in 1997, which
made Ellen DeGeneres (news)' character the first openly gay central figure on a
For his television work, Randall got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
In an effort to bring classic theater back to Broadway, Randall founded and
artistic director of the non-profit National Actors Theatre in 1991, using $1
million of his own money and $2 million from corporations and foundations. The
company's first production was a revival of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible,"
starring Martin Sheen (news) and Michael York (news), which hadn't been staged
on Broadway in 40 years.
The next year, Randall's production of Ibsen's "The Master Builder"
exactly draw raves. AP Drama Critic Michael Kuchwara called it "deadly earnest —
Subsequent performances included "Night Must Fall," "The Gin
Game" and "The
Sunshine Boys," in which Randall reunited with Klugman, in 1998. Randall also
starred in his company's Tony Award-winning staging of "M. Butterfly."
The actor also was socially active, lobbying against smoking in public places,
marching in Washington against apartheid in the '80s, and helping raise money
for AIDS (news - web sites) research in the '90s.
Born Leonard Rosenberg on Feb. 26, 1920, Randall was drawn as a teenager
roadshows that came through his hometown of Tulsa, Okla.
"One night, the entire town turned out to see the Ballet Russe de Monte
perform Swan Lake and Sheherezade," he wrote. "I — and most of the audience —
had never seen a ballet before. We stood and cheered, thinking it was a 'once in
a lifetime' event." Randall attended Northwestern University before heading to New York at 19, where he made his stage debut in 1941 in "The Circle of Chalk." After Army service during World War II from 1942-46, he returned to New York, where he appeared on radio and early television. He got his start in movies in 1957. He was married to his college sweetheart, Florence Randall, for 54 years until she died of cancer in 1992. "I saw her in a bank — I never saw another girl in my life. She was gorgeous, the most beautiful girl I ever saw," Randall said in a TV interview in 1995. Later that year, he married Harlan, who was 50 years his junior. Randall met her through his National Actors Theatre; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (news - web sites) performed the ceremony. Harlan gave birth to their first child, Julia Laurette Randall, in April 1997. Their second child, Jefferson Salvini Randall, was born in June 1998.
5/16/04 - Anna Lee - LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anna Lee, whose nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television spanned from her breakthrough role in "How Green Was My Valley" to an extended run on "General Hospital," died Friday, May 14, 2004 of pneumonia, her son said. She was 91.
Paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident just a year after she began
playing Lila Quartermaine in ABC's "General Hospital," Lee acted in a wheelchair
for more than two decades until she left the soap last year, Byron said.
Born in Kent, England, Lee studied acting in London and was known as "the
British bombshell" when touring with the London Repertory Theatre, her son said.
In the early 1930s she moved to California to work in Hollywood, and appeared in
more than 60 films including "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Fort Apache" (1948)
and "King Solomon's Mines" (1937).
In 1982, Lee received an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire
award. She is to be honored with a lifetime achievement award at Friday's
Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony.
Note from the Underground:
Anna Lee's ashes were scattered at sea, along with the ashes of her late husband,
author Robert Nathan, who had been buried at Westwood Memorial Park until
Miss Lee's death. There is a memorial marker at Westwood Memorial Park next
to the fountain for both Anna Lee and Robert Nathan.
5/9/04 - Alan King - NEW YORK - Alan King, whose tirades against everyday suburban life grew into a long comedy career in nightclubs and television that he later expanded to Broadway and character roles in movies, died Sunday, May 9, 2004 at the age of 76.
King, who also was host of the New York Friars Club's celebrity roasts, which
had recently returned as a staple on television's Comedy Central, died at a
Manhattan hospital, said a son, Robert King.
King appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 93 times beginning in the 1950s.
He played supporting roles in more than 20 films including "Bye Bye
"I, the Jury," "The Anderson Tapes," "Lovesick," "Bonfire of the Vanities,"
"Casino," and "Rush Hour 2." He also produced several films, including "Memories
of Me," "Wolfen" and "Cattle Annie and Little Britches," and the 1997 television
series "The College of Comedy With Alan King."
He said he was working strip joints and seedy nightclubs in the early 1950s
he had a revelation while watching a performance by another young comedian,
"Danny actually talked to his audience," he recalled in a 1991
interview. "And I
realized I never talked to my audience. I talked at 'em, around 'em and over
'em, but not to 'em. I felt the response they had for him. I said to myself,
'This guy is doing something, and I better start doing it.'"
King, who until then had been using worn out one-liners, found his new material
at home, after his wife persuaded him to forsake his native Manhattan, believing
the suburban atmosphere of the Forest Hills sections of Queens would provide a
better environment for their children.
Soon he was joking of seeing people moving from the city to the suburbs "in
covered wagons, with mink stoles hanging out the back."
His rantings about suburbia, just as America was embracing it, struck a chord
with the public and soon he was appearing regularly on the Sullivan show, Garry
Moore's variety show and "The Tonight Show."
Bookings poured in, and he toured with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra, played New
York's showcase Paramount theater and top nightclubs around the country.
He also worked as the opening act for such music stars as Lena Horne, Billy
Eckstine, Patti Page and Judy Garland, who he joined in a command performance in
London for Queen Elizabeth.
After that show he was introduced to the queen and, when she asked "How
do, Mr. King?" he said he replied: "How do you do, Mrs. Queen?"
"She stared at me, and then Prince Philip laughed," he recalled.
Prince Philip laughed."
King appeared in a handful of films in the late 1950s, including "The
Left Behind," "Miracle in the Rain" and "Hit the Deck," although he didn't care
for his roles. "I was always the sergeant from Brooklyn named Kowalski," he once
He also appeared on Broadway in "Guys and Dolls" and "The
Impossible Years," and
produced the Broadway plays "The Lion in Winter" and "Something Different."
He wrote the humor books "Anyone Who Owns His Own Home Deserves One"
"Help! I'm a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery" (1964).
Born Irwin Alan Kniberg, he grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and in
"Both of them were tough neighborhoods, but I was a pretty tough kid,"
recalled in 1964. "I had an answer for everything. ... I fought back with
He married Jeannette Sprung in 1947 and they had three children, Robert,
and Elaine Ray. When King was at the height of his career, he faced one son's
drug addiction and said he realized he had neglected his family.
"It's not easy being a father," he said, "but I've been allowed a comeback."
He spent more time at home and his son conquered his addiction.
"Now everyone kisses," he said. "We show our affections."
Note from the Underground: Alan King was laid to rest at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, NY.
4/1/04 - Elois Jenssen - Elois Jenssen, a costume designer who shared an Academy Award for the 1949 film "Samson and Delilah," has died. She was 81.
Jenssen died Feb. 14 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital in Woodland
She had been in failing health after suffering a number of strokes and died in
Born in Palo Alto, Calif., Jenssen attended the Westlake School for Girls
moved to Paris to study fashion design. At the outbreak of World War II, Jenssen
and her family returned to California, where she enrolled at the Chouinard Art
After graduation, she found work in costume design for producer Hunt Stromberg,
including the Hedy Lamarr film "Dishonored Lady."
After leaving Stromberg, she worked on two other Lamarr films, "Let's
Little" (1948) and Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah." She and the other
costume designers on that film — Dorothy Jeakins, Gile Steele, Gwen Wakeling and
Edith Head — received the Academy Award for their work.
Jenssen worked on a number of films through the mid-1950s before moving into
television, where she designed the wardrobe for Ann Sothern in "Private
Secretary" and then worked with Lucille Ball for several years on "I Love Lucy."
She received her second Academy Award nomination in 1982 for her work on
science fiction film "Tron."
She is survived by her stepson, Thomas J. Andre III; five step-grandchildren,
and six step-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service and reception will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Motion
Picture & Television Fund Country House in Woodland Hills.
3/30/04 - Alistair Cooke - LONDON (Reuters) - Legendary broadcaster Alistair Cooke, best known for his long-running radio series "Letter from America," has died at the age of 95. A spokesman for the BBC said Tuesday that Cooke, who was credited with improving transatlantic understanding for more than half a century, died at his home in New York.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) paid warm tribute to
"He was really one of the greatest broadcasters of all time," he said.
"I was a big fan. I thought they were extraordinary essays. They brought
enormous amount of insight and understanding to world. We shall feel his loss
very, very keenly indeed."
Cooke retired from the BBC in March after 58 years of Letter from America.
He said he had decided to quit the show -- the world's longest-running speech
radio program -- due to ill-health and on advice from his doctors.
In a statement when he left, Cooke said he had thoroughly enjoyed his 58
on the airwaves and hoped some of the enjoyment had passed over to the listeners
"to all of whom I now say thank you for your loyalty and goodbye."
Cooke -- a Briton who became an American citizen in 1941 -- first went to
United States in 1932 to study drama at Yale University on a Commonwealth Fund
He was best known to many Americans for his show "Omnibus," which
face of U.S. television in the 1950s and for presenting "Masterpiece Theater" on
He was even gently spoofed on the famous children's show "Sesame Street"
Cooke joined the BBC in 1934 as a film critic and began reporting three years
Letter from America began in 1946, when Cooke was asked to give a weekly
snapshot of life in America. During the following six decades, he provided
listeners with insightful reports of the country's cultural and political
As a result of the program's huge success, he became known in America as
who explained all things British, and in Britain as the man who explained all
Born in Salford, northern England, in 1908, Cooke spent his last years living
with his second wife in New York.
In presenting 2,869 shows, he had missed only three broadcasts. He wrote
letter every week on a typewriter in his flat overlooking New York City's
Acting director general of the BBC, Mark Byford, described Cooke as "the
outstanding commentator of the 20th century."
"Alistair Cooke was one of the greatest broadcasters ever in the history
BBC," he said in a statement.
"(His) insight, wisdom and unique ability to craft words enabled millions of
listeners in the UK and around the world to understand the texture of the United
States and its people."
3/29/04 - Sir Peter Ustinov - GENEVA (Reuters) - Oscar-winning British actor and playwright Peter Ustinov, one of the world's best loved raconteurs and mimics, has died at the age of 82. Author of more than a dozen books and even more theatrical works in a career spanning more than 60 years, Ustinov died of heart failure in a clinic near his home on the shores of Lake Geneva Sunday night, his family said.
The actor and humorist, who was also well known for charity work, had been
hospital since shortly after Christmas when he was taken ill on his return from
a holiday in Thailand.
"It was not a surprise, he was pretty ill. He had had a busy life and he was
tired," his son Igor Ustinov told Reuters in a telephone interview. "But he
certainly was not ready to go," he said.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was among those to pay tribute to his
brilliance and compassion. "(He) was a role model for us all, not only as a
great actor and artist...but above all as a man with a great heart, spirit and
humor," he said in a letter to Ustinov's widow, Helene. Ustinov, who spoke more
than half a dozen languages, won Oscars (news - web sites) for his roles in the
films "Spartacus" and "Topkapi."
The multi-talented entertainer, who was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth
but did not like to be known as "Sir Peter," finished his last film as an actor,
about the life of 16th century Reformation leader Martin Luther, late last year.
Although confined to a wheelchair by diabetes and a weak heart, he continued to
appear in public until his final illness, delighting television audiences across
Europe with his witty stories and raising money for charities, particularly the
United Nations (news - web sites)' Children Fund (UNICEF (news - web sites)) for
which he was an ambassador.
Just 18 months ago, Ustinov told Reuters he was happy to work until he dropped
"as long as I can be guaranteed that I won't know in advance when it's going to
RICHLY VARIED LIFE
He led a richly varied life as playwright, novelist, film director, academic
as an active campaigner against war.
He was Chancellor of the University of Durham and shortly before his death,
University of Vienna inaugurated the Ustinov Institute, dedicated to studying
prejudice and its impact on people, politics and conflict resolution.
"This was something that inspired him a lot. He wanted his ideas for
to become a reality," Igor said.
Born in London of Russian parentage, Ustinov was a London revue star as a
teen-ager and wrote his first play at 19. He made his first feature film at 25.
He starred in, produced and directed his own plays, including Romanoff and
Juliet, in London, New York, Berlin, Paris and Rome. He wrote novels to fill in
time whilst hanging around on Hollywood film sets.
Among his best-known film roles was that of Hercule Poirot in screen versions
the stories of British mystery writer Agatha Christie's most famous detective.
He directed seven feature films, among them the much-applauded Billy Budd in
1962, staged opera and was a noted photographer.
"He was one of the funniest men I have ever met," said Ustinov's
Miller. "He had enough careers for about six other men. He was phenomenally
Ustinov was the first to admit that laughter had been a life-long drug,
confessing: "I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has
always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world."
He was once asked what would be his ideal epitaph.
With a familiar twinkle in his eye, he swiftly decided on the perfect
inscription for his tombstone: "Keep off the grass."
3/27/04 - Jan Berry - LOS ANGELES - Jan Berry, a member of the duo Jan & Dean that had the 1960s surf-music hits "Deadman's Curve" and "Little Old Lady from Pasadena," has died. He was 62.
Berry had a seizure and stopped breathing Friday at his home. He was pronounced
dead that evening at a hospital, said his wife, Gertie Berry.
He had been in poor health recently from the lingering effects of brain damage
from a 1966 car crash.
Jan & Dean had a string of hits and 10 gold records in the 1960s with
tales of Southern California. Among them were 1964's "The Little Old Lady from
Pasadena," about a hotrod racing grandma, and "Surf City," with its lines about
taking the station wagon to a place where there are "two girls for every boy."
With Brian Wilson (news) of the Beach Boys, William Jan Berry co-wrote the
lyrics for "Surf City" and "Deadman's Curve," which featured the driving guitar
licks and falsetto crooning of the wildly popular surf music.
Berry's hit-making career with high school friend Dean Torrence was cut short
1966 when Berry's speeding Corvette hit a parked truck and he suffered severe
brain damage that left him partially paralyzed and unable to talk.
His recovery was slow, but eventually he was able to resume singing and writing
In addition to his wife, Berry is survived by his parents, William and Clara
Berry of Camarillo; three brothers and three sisters.
3/17/04 - Mercedes McCambridge - LOS ANGELES - Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who won an Oscar for the 1949 film "All the King's Men" and later provided the raspy voice of the demon-possessed girl in "The Exorcist," has died. She was 85.
McCambridge died from natural causes on March 2, the Rev. Joe
Carroll, a friend and the founder of a San Diego charity for the
homeless, said Tuesday. She had lived in the La Jolla area of San
Diego since the 1980s.
McCambridge's strong, radio-trained voice made her an ideal film
portrayer of hard-driving women. She received the Academy Award as
supporting actress for her screen debut in "All the King's Men,"
playing a reporter who was the nemesis of the populist Southern
governor, Willie Stark.
Broderick Crawford was named best actor for his role as Stark, a
close replica of Louisiana's Huey Long, and the drama was honored
with a best picture Oscar.
During her film career, McCambridge acquired a reputation as a strong-
willed, outspoken woman on and off the screen. When she was hired to
play the enemy of Joan Crawford (news) in a 1954 Western, "Johnny
Guitar," the pair feuded on the set. In her memoir, McCambridge
called Crawford "a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady."
Because of her great vocal skills, McCambridge was hired to portray
The Demon in William Friedkin (news)'s 1973 smash hit "The Exorcist."
After weeks of what she called the hardest work she had done for a
film, she had been promised prominent mention in the credits.
But when she attended the preview, her name was missing. As she left
the theater in tears, Friedkin tried to explain that there had been
no time to insert her credit. The Screen Actors Guild (news - web
sites) intervened and forced her inclusion in the credits.
Despite the celebrity that followed her Academy Award for "All the
King's Men," McCambridge's film career did not flourish. Because she
did not fit the glamour girl image that was prevalent in postwar
films, her movie work was sporadic.
Among the later films: "Giant" (1956 — her second Academy nomination
as supporting actress), "A Farewell to Arms" (1957), "Touch of Evil"
(1958 — with her radio cohort Orson Welles (news)), "Suddenly Last
Summer" (1959), "Cimarron" (1960), "99 Women" (1969), "Thieves"
(1977), "The Concorde — Airport '79" (1979).
In the early 1990s, Neil Simon called with an offer to play the
grandmother in "Lost in Yonkers" on Broadway and on the road.
McCambridge's return to the New York theater proved triumphant, and
she performed the play 560 times.
In her later years, McCambridge also appeared in "Magnum, P.I." and
other television series, but her movie work was sparse.
"I don't think the Hollywood community is interested in what I can
do," she said in a 1981 interview. "That's all right. I've never
looked for a job in my life, and I'm not going to start now. I have
plenty to keep me busy."
McCambridge battled through much of her life, surviving a long siege
of alcoholism, two failed marriages and series of tragedies involving
her only child, John Lawrence Fifield. The son, who later took the
last name of his mother's second husband, Markle, killed his wife and
children and himself in 1987.
Charlotte Mercedes Agnes McCambridge was born to Irish parents on
March 17, 1918, on the family farm at Joliet, Ill.
After graduation from Mundelein College in Chicago, she acted in
Chicago radio, which then produced several network soap operas and
nighttime shows. She married her first husband, William Fifield, at
They eventually wound up in Hollywood, where she resumed her career
as a radio actress. Her vocal versatility brought her jobs on shows
ranging from "I Love a Mystery" to "Red Ryder."
McCambridge returned to New York for the title role in a radio
adaptation of the play "Abie's Irish Rose." She later found steady
work in the radio dramas of Welles, who called her "the world's
greatest living radio actress."
From 1950 to 1962, McCambridge was married to Canadian-born Fletcher
Markle, a radio director who became well-known in the U.S. during the
years of live television drama. During the marriage and afterward,
she was sometimes hospitalized after episodes of heavy drinking.
After years with Alcoholics Anonymous, she achieved sobriety.
3/9/04 - Robert Pastorelli - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Robert Pastorelli, the boxer-turned-actor best known to television audiences as the house painter Eldin on long-running CBS comedy "Murphy Brown," has died, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said on Tuesday.
Pastorelli, 49, was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home
Monday afternoon, a coroner's spokesman said. Drug paraphernalia was found on
the scene, he added, and an autopsy was to be conducted on Tuesday.
The New Jersey-born Pastorelli got into stage acting in the 1970s in productions
like "Rebel Without A Cause" but found his greatest fame on "Murphy Brown,"
painting the house of the title character played by Candice Bergen but never
quite finishing his ambitious artistic projects on her walls.
He briefly had his own series, "Double Rush," about the manager
of a bicycle
messenger service. Most recently, he was cast in the film "Be Cool," a sequel to
Syndicated TV entertainment show Access Hollywood, which first reported the
actor's death, said his girlfriend died in the same home in early 1999. The two
had a daughter.
3/9/04 - Paul Winfield - LOS ANGELES - Paul Winfield, an
Academy Award-nominated actor who was known for
his versatility in stage, film and television roles, including a highly praised
1978 depiction of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. He was 62.
Winfield died Sunday, March 7, 2004 of a heart attack, said his agent Michael
In 1968, Winfield played the boyfriend of Diahann Carroll in her situation
comedy "Julia" — a role that some suggest helped open television to other black
Four years later Winfield's portrayal of the father in "Sounder"
earned him an
Academy Award nomination for best actor.
He was Emmy-nominated for best actor in the title role of the 1978 miniseries
"King," and nominated the next year in the best supporting actor category for
playing a college chancellor willing to sing Negro spirituals to get donations
for his school in "Roots: The Next Generation."
He finally won an Emmy in 1995 for a guest appearance on "Picket Fences."
played a federal judge whose rulings on busing inner-city children are
challenged by a local resident.
Despite acclaim, Winfield was often relegated to supporting roles, including
playing Jim in a 1974 remake of "Huckleberry Finn."
Sidney Poitier hired Winfield for his first movie role in "The Lost
1969. Other significant roles included an appearance in the Broadway play
"Checkmates" with Denzel Washington, and his portrayal of Don King in a 1995 HBO
A Los Angeles native, Winfield was born May 22, 1941. Until he was 8, he
raised by union organizer Lois Edwards, who later married Winfield's stepfather.
He was bused to the predominantly white Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles
and was named best actor for three years in a row in an annual Southern
California high school drama competition.
He later studied drama at four colleges before leaving the University of
California at Los Angeles six credits short of a bachelor's degree.
He is survived by his sister, Patricia Wilson, of Las Vegas.
Note from the Underground:
Paul Winfield was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.
3/8/04 - Frances Dee - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Frances
Dee, widow of Western movie hero Joel
McCrea and one of the last stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, has died at age 94
after a career in which she co-starred with the likes of Gary Cooper (news),
Bette Davis (news), Frederic March, Katharine Hepburn (news) and John Wayne
Her family said on Monday that Dee died two days earlier in a hospital in
Norwalk, Connecticut, after suffering a stroke while on a visit to one of her
Her career as an actress began in 1929 when Maurice Chevalier picked her
opposite him in "Playboy of Paris." And it continued more or less unabated until
the 1950s when she retired full-time to devote herself to her children and her
husband. She and Joel McCrea, one of the major stars of Western movies, were
married for 57 years, one of Hollywood's longest unions.
While she appeared in many successful films of the 1930s and 40s, like "Wells
Fargo," "Of Human Bondage," "Little Women," "An American Tragedy" and the
powerful anti-Nazi drama "So Ends Our Night," she is remembered best these days
for two cult films -- the thriller "I Walked with a Zombie" and the drama of
loose women "Blood Money."
Dee's biographer Andrew Wentink said that she gained renewed fame thanks
documentary about the racy films that had Hollywood hopping before the major
studios cracked down with a code on what moral behavior could be shown on
"When a friend recently admonished her for playing a prostitute in "Blood
Money,' she denied it saying, 'I played a masochistic nymphomaniacal
kleptomaniac, not a prostitute.' And, of course, that was the role she played in
BEAUTY COST HER KEY ROLE
Praised by critics -- even revered by some -- for her luminous good looks,
was probably her beauty that cost one of the film's most memorable roles, that
of Melanie Hamilton in "Gone with the Wind." The movie's original director
George Cukor (news) wanted her but Wentink said he was overruled by producer
David O. Selznick who said she was too beautiful and would overshadow Vivien
Leigh (news), who played Scarlett O'Hara.
So instead the role of Scarlett's rival for the affections of Ashley Wilkes
to Olivia de Havilland.
James Agee, one of the major film critics of the 1930s and 40s, said Dee
"one of the very few women in movies who really had a face .... and always used
this translucent face with delicate and exciting talent."
New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael compared a close-up of Dee in 1941's
Ends Our Night," where she sees but cannot speak to her fugitive husband, to the
famous close-up of Greta Garbo (news) in the final moments of "Queen Christina."
Dee met McCrea when she worked on Joseph von Sternberg's controversial 1931
production of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy." Wentink said the two made
only three films together, including the 1937 western "Wells Fargo," because she
found that "she would start giving him little directions." They also made "Four
Faces West" in 1948, a rare Western in which not a single shot is fired.
Dee appeared as "Meg" in George Cukor's "Little Women,"
with Katharine Hepburn
and Joan Bennett (news). She appeared with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis in "Of
Human Bondage" and has a key role in the first Technicolor film, "Becky Sharp,"
which had Miriam Hopkins in the title role.
Her favorite film was William Wyler's comedy, "The Gay Deception,"
in which she
played a modern-day Cinderella and co-starred with Czech matinee idol Francis
1/27/04 - Jack Paar - NEW YORK (AP)- Jack Paar, who held the nation’s rapt attention as he pioneered late-night talk on “The Tonight Show,” then told his viewers farewell when still in his prime, died Tuesday. He was 85.
Paar died at his Greenwich, Conn., home as a result of a long illness, said Stephen Wells, Paar’s son-in-law. Paar’s wife of more than 60 years, Miriam, and daughter, Randy, were by his side, Wells said.
“We’re in a bit of a fog,” he said. “There were a lot of people who knew Jack and loved him.”
Since the mid-1960s, Paar had kept mostly out of the public eye, engaging in business ventures and indulging his passion for travel.
But Paar’s years on NBC enlivened an otherwise “painfully predictable” TV landscape, wrote The New York Times’ Jack Gould in 1962. “Mr. Paar almost alone has managed to preserve the possibility of surprise.”
Johnny Carson took over “The Tonight Show” in 1962. Paar had a prime-time talk show for three more seasons, then retired from television in 1965.
Carson was at his Malibu, Calif., home when he got word of Paar’s death. In a statement, he said he was “very saddened to hear of his passing. He was a unique personality who brought a new dimension to late night television.”
Paar had taken over the flagging NBC late-night slot in July 1957; Steve Allen had departed some months earlier. Allen’s show was a variety show; Paar’s a talk show.
Late-night talk pioneer
“Like being chosen as a kamikaze pilot,” Paar wrote in “I Kid You Not,” a memoir. “But I felt sure that people would enjoy good, frank and amusing talk.”
They did. Viewers loved this cherubic wiseguy, someone once referred to as “like Peter Pan, if Peter Pan had been written by Mickey Spillane.”
Soon, everyone was staying up to watch Paar, then talking about his show the next day. Even youngsters sent to bed before Paar came on parroted his jaunty catch phrase, “I kid you not,” with which he regularly certified his flow of self-revealing stories.
Just why he walked away from such a breakthrough career at age 47 would become an enduring source of conjecture, possibly even for Paar. His explanation would have to suffice: that he was tired and ready to do other things.
But off the air, as on, he never stopped doing the thing he did best: talk.
“The only time I’m nervous or scared is when I’m NOT talking,” he told The Associated Press in 1997. “When I’m talking, I know that I do it well.”
What he accomplished with the spoken word — not only his words but those he wooed from fellow raconteurs like Peter Ustinov, Elsa Maxwell, Hans Conreid and Genevieve — proved irresistible to his audience.
From punch to pickled
Paar also played host to Muhammad Ali when he was still known as Cassius Clay, to a pleasantly pickled Judy Garland, and to the outrageous pianist-composer Oscar Levant. Entertainers Paar championed included Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby.
Paar’s circle of guests included leading politicians. During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy made a triumphant appearance — so much so, that a few days after the election, Paar got a letter from Joseph P. Kennedy, the proud father, gushing, “I don’t know anybody who did more, indirectly, to have Jack elected than your own good self.”
But Paar was a show all by himself, just talking about himself. “I’m against psychiatry — for me, anyway,” he told viewers. “I haven’t got any troubles I can’t tell standing up.”
A man of boundless curiosity and interests, he was charming, gracious and famously sentimental: He could shed tears, as he put it, just from “taking the Coca-Cola bottles back to the A&P.”
He could also be volatile, pettish and confounding. And never so much as in February 1960, when, making headlines, he emotionally told his thunderstruck audience that he was leaving his show. It was the night after a skittish NBC executive had judged obscene, and edited out, a story by Paar where the initials “W.C.” were mistaken for “wayside chapel” instead of “water closet.”
A month later, the network managed to lure Paar back. Returning on the night of March 7, he was greeted with generous applause as he stepped before the cameras. Then he began his monologue on a typically cheeky note: “As I was saying, before I was interrupted ... “
Born to entertain
Born in Canton, Ohio, in 1918, Jack Harold Paar left school at 16 for a job as a radio announcer, and soon found success on various stations as a comic-disc jockey.
Then, in the U.S. Army special services during World War II, he entertained troops in the South Pacific as a standup comedian. His specialty was poking fun at officers for an appreciative audience of enlisted men. (“I don’t care what you think of the colonel,” he would chide, “stop using your thumbs when you salute.”)
In 1947, a magazine poll chose him as “the most promising star of tomorrow,” but as the 1950s wore on, he had scored only as a temporary replacement on radio for Jack Benny and Arthur Godfrey, as a failed B-movie actor and a shortlived daytime TV personality.
Then, within weeks of his “Tonight” debut, he was being hailed as “one of America’s most popular indoor pastimes.”
The talkfest came to an end in 1965. By then Paar had traded in his “Tonight Show” desk for a Friday prime-time hour. But he had made no secret that his third season of “The Jack Paar Program” would be his last. With little fanfare and — against all odds — no tears, he signed off with his June 25 show.
“I have been — forgive me — I have been a success,” Paar could declare three decades later, still exhibiting his blend of modesty and brashness. Then he added puckishly, “I’m as amazed as you are.”
Wells said Paar was hospitalized after suffering a stroke last year. Viewers came to know daughter Randy as a youngster thanks to Paar’s family-oriented tales and globe-spanning “home movies.”
1/23/04 - Bob Keeshan - QUECHEE, Vt. (AP) - Bob Keeshan, who gently entertained and educated generations of children as television's walrus-mustachioed Captain Kangaroo, died Friday at 76.
Keeshan died of a long illness, his family said in a statement.
Keeshan's ''Captain Kangaroo'' premiered on CBS in 1955 and ran for 30 years before moving to public television for six more. It was wildly popular among children and won six Emmy Awards, three Gabriels and three Peabody Awards.
The format was simple: Each day, Captain Kangaroo, with his sugar-bowl haircut and uniform coat, would wander through his Treasure House, chatting with his good friend Mr. Green Jeans, played by Hugh ''Lumpy'' Brannum.
He would visit with puppet animals, like Bunny Rabbit, who was scolded for eating too many carrots, and Mr. Moose, who loved to tell knock-knock jokes.
But the show revolved about the grandfatherly Captain Kangaroo, whose name was inspired by the kangaroo pouch-like pockets of the coat Keeshan wore.
''I was impressed with the potential positive relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, so I chose an elderly character,'' Keeshan said.
Keeshan, born in Lynbrook, N.Y., became a page at NBC while he was in high school. He joined the Marine Corps in 1945.
His first television appearance came in 1948, when he played the voiceless, horn-honking Clarabell the Clown on the ''Howdy Doody Show,'' a role he created and played for five years.
Later he played Corny the clown, the host of a noontime cartoon program in New York City.
''Captain Kangaroo'' debuted on Oct. 3, 1955, and Keeshan remained in that role until 1993.
Keeshan, who moved to Vermont in 1990, remained active as a children's advocate, writing books, lecturing and lobbying on behalf of children's issues.
He was critical of today's TV programs for children, saying they were too full of violence. And he spoke wherever he went about the importance of good parenting.
''Parents are the ultimate role models for children,'' he said. ''Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.''
When Fred Rogers, the gentle host of ''Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,'' died last year, Keeshan recalled how they often spoke about the state of children's programming.
''I don't think it's any secret that Fred and I were not very happy with the way children's television had gone,'' Keeshan said.
In 1987, Keeshan and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander co-founded Corporate Family Solutions, an organization that provided day-care programs to businesses around the country.
Keeshan believed children learn more in the first six years of life than at any other time and was a strong advocate of day care that provides emotional, physical and intellectual development for children.
''Play is the work of children. It's very serious stuff. And if it's properly structured in a developmental program, children can blossom,'' he said.
Keeshan's wife, Jeanne, died in 1990. He had three children.
1/22/04 - Ann Miller - Los Angeles -- Ann Miller, the raven-haired, long-legged actress and dancer whose machine-gun taps won her stardom during the golden age of movie musicals, died Thursday of lung cancer. She was 81.
Miller died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Esme Chandlee, her longtime
friend and former publicist.
A onetime childhood dance prodigy, she reached the peak of her film career
MGM in the late 1940s and early '50s with "On the Town," "Easter Parade" and
"Kiss Me Kate."
She remained a dazzling tapper in her 60s and earned millions on Broadway
touring with Mickey Rooney in "Sugar Babies," a razzmatazz tribute to the era
"At MGM, I always played the second feminine lead; I was never the star
films," she once recalled. "I was the brassy, good-hearted showgirl. I never
really had my big moment on the screen.
"'Sugar Babies' gave me the stardom that my soul kind of yearned for."
Rooney said Thursday that Miller "was a great talent. She is a great
I'll never think of her as being gone."
"She told me the last time I spoke to her she wasn't feeling too well,
said, 'Keep your head up, kid.' I'm just very sad."
Miller's legs, pretty face and fast tapping (she claimed the record of 500
taps a minute) earned her jobs in vaudeville and night clubs when she first came
to Hollywood. She adopted the stage name of Anne Miller. Her early film
career included working as a child extra in films and as a chorus girl in a minor
musical, "The Devil on Horseback."
An appearance at the popular Bal Tabarin in San Francisco won a contract
RKO studio, where her name was shortened to Ann.
Her first film at RKO, "New Faces of 1937," featured her dancing.
played an acting hopeful in "Stage Door," with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers,
Lucille Ball and Eve Arden.
Most of her RKO films were low-budget musicals and comedies. A contract at
Columbia Pictures started impressively with the role of the would-be ballerina
in Frank Capra's Oscar-winning "You Can't Take It with You."
Then she was cast in a series of wartime B musicals with titles like "True
the Army," "Priorities on Parade" and "Hey Rookie."
When Cyd Charisse broke a leg before starting "Easter Parade" at
Fred Astaire, Miller replaced her. That led to an MGM contract and her most
She was teamed with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in "On the Town,"
Skelton in "Watch the Birdie," and Bob Fosse in "Kiss Me Kate."
Other MGM films included: "Texas Carnival," "Lovely to Look
At," "Small Town
Girl," "Deep in My Heart," "Hit the Deck" and "The Opposite Sex."
The popularity of musicals declined in the 1950s, and her film career ended
in 1956. Miller remained active in television and the theater, dancing and
belting songs on Broadway in "Hello, Dolly" and "Mame."
In later years, she astounded audiences in New York, Las Vegas and on the
road with her dynamic tapping in "Sugar Babies" when. The show, starring her and
Rooney, opened on Broadway in 1979 and toured for years. In 1990, she
commented that "Sugar Babies" had made her financially independent.
Before each performance, she practiced for an hour.
"Honestly, I have had to live like a high priestess in this show,"
remarked in a 1984 interview. "It is a very, very lonely life. When you work the way
I work -- that means hard -- there's no time for play."
She was born Johnnie Lucille Collier in Chireno, Texas, the first name
dictated by her father, who had wanted a boy. After her parents divorced, she was
called Annie, for reasons she never knew.
Growing up in Houston, Annie suffered from rickets, and dancing lessons
helped straighten her legs. Her mother was almost totally deaf and could not find
work. By the age of 12, Annie was almost full grown at 5 feet 5, and she danced
to support her mother and herself.
While her career in Hollywood prospered, Miller became a regular figure in
the town's night life, and she caught the eye of Louis B. Mayer, all-powerful
head of MGM. They began dating and could be seen on the dance floors of Ciro's
"I think one reason Mr. Mayer fancied himself in love with me was that
lonely," she wrote in her 1972 autobiography, "Miller's High Life." Another
reason: "He knew or reasoned that I was as virginal as the day I was born."
She declared that Mayer pleaded for marriage, but her ever-watchful mother
would not allow it. She decided to accept the offer of marriage from steel heir
It was a mistake. After giving birth to a daughter who died three hours
later, she divorced Milner. Marriages to oilmen William Moss and Arthur Cameron
also ended in divorce.
Note from the Underground: Ann Miller was laid to rest with her infant daughter, Mary Milner, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA.
1/17/04 - Philip Crosby - Philip Crosby, one of Bing Crosby's twin sons — and the last of the four sons from the legendary crooner's first marriage — has died. He was 69.
Crosby was found dead in his Woodland Hills home on Tuesday, according to
Crosby family attorney Ed O'Sullivan. The Los Angeles County coroner's office
Crosby died of natural causes.
Crosby's four sons from his marriage to former jazz singer-actress Dixie
who died of cancer in 1952, were Gary, Lindsay and twins Philip and Dennis. All
four entered show business as young men and had varying degrees of success.
In the late '50s, the four brothers formed a nightclub act called the Crosby
Boys and performed in Las Vegas and elsewhere, including on their father's TV
But the young Crosbys were known for getting into trouble with drinking and
other problems, and Gary dropped out of the Crosby Boys in 1959 after a
dressing-room brawl with his brothers in Montreal. He then launched a solo act,
and his brothers continued performing as a trio.
Philip Crosby, who made some recordings and had small roles in films such
"Robin and the Seven Hoods" and "None but the Brave," both starring Frank
Sinatra, had a relatively short-lived show-business career.
In 1983, he told People magazine that he hadn't performed in a year and that
last gig was at an Elks Club party in Burbank.
By then he had been married four times, the first three to Las Vegas showgirls.
He had also been arrested several times for drunk driving in 1980 and, despite
18 months of Alcoholics Anonymous, he told the magazine, "I don't drink anymore
— but I don't drink any less."
Each of the Crosby brothers, according to the magazine article, received
four-figure monthly checks from a trust fund established by their mother.
Born in Los Angeles in 1934, Philip Crosby and his brothers grew up in a
mansion in the Holmby Hills neighborhood on the Westside, where they became
fodder for their father's publicity machine and posed for pictures in matching
The National Father's Day Committee once honored Bing Crosby as "Hollywood's
Most Typical Father."
But his image as the easygoing, all-American father was shattered decades
with the publication of Gary Crosby's 1983 memoir "Going My Own Way."
In the book, the eldest Crosby son portrayed Bing as a cold, aloof and abusive
father who frequently beat his sons.
Both parents were strict disciplinarians. When Philip hid his bacon and eggs
under a rug instead of finishing his breakfast, Gary Crosby wrote, their mother
found the food and forced him to eat it, "dirt, hairs and all."
And the punishment for not putting away their underwear was to tie the underwear
in a string and wear it around their necks until bedtime.
But it was Bing's job to provide the whippings for the most serious offenses
Gary, reportedly the most rebellious of the four brothers, received the most
As soon as their father got home and learned of the day's offense, he told
People, "I'd get bent over and my pants taken down and beat until I bled." Gary
Crosby's book provoked what the magazine characterized as "a high-powered
"Gary is a whining … crybaby, walking around with a 2-by-4 on
his shoulder and
just daring people to nudge it off," Philip Crosby said at the time.
Dennis Crosby called the book "Gary's business," while brother
with Gary. "I'm glad he did it," he said. "I hope it clears up a lot of the old
lies and rumors."
Philip Crosby disputed many of the revelations in his brother's book but
deny that his father believed in corporal punishment.
"We never got an extra whack or a cuff we didn't deserve," he told People.
After attending a strict, Jesuit-run boarding school south of San Francisco,
served a stint in the Army in the mid-1950s and attended what is now Washington
State University in Pullman, where he was a guard on the football team.
Chuck Morrell, the team's star fullback who shared a house with Crosby at
time, recalled that when Philip needed a car in college, his father had a driver
deliver him a brand-new Chevrolet.
"He wasn't snooty or anything," Morrell, who remained lifelong
Crosby, told The Times on Friday. "He was a good, friendly guy and everybody
liked him. You wouldn't know he was Bing Crosby's son."
Bing Crosby died in 1977 at age 73. Lindsay Crosby committed suicide in 1989,
did Dennis Crosby two years later. Gary Crosby died from complications of lung
cancer in 1995.
Philip Crosby is survived by four children: Mary Elizabeth Crosby, Dixie
Crosby, Flip Crosby and Philip Crosby Jr.; and three half-siblings from Bing
Crosby's second marriage, to Kathryn Grant: Harry Crosby, Mary Frances Crosby
and Nathaniel Crosby.
A funeral Mass will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Church of the Good Shepherd
1/17/04 - Ray Stark - LOS ANGELES - Ray Stark, a publicist and actors' agent who became a Hollywood power broker and producer of such movies as "Funny Girl," "The Way We Were," and "The Sunshine Boys," died Saturday after a long illness. He was 88.
Stark died at his home, longtime friend Warren Cowan said.
Stark was considered the last of the great independent producers, following
pattern of Samuel Goldwyn and David O. Selznick. Like them, he made films that
were often based on best-selling books or hit plays, rich in production value
and cast with major stars.
But unlike Goldwyn and Selznick, who thrived on publicity, Stark preferred
remain out of the limelight.
He gave only a handful of interviews during his career, and then only if
an ax to grind. He issued only a few details in his official biography and was
even sketchy about his age. He indicated his birth date was 1914, but gave no
month or day.
A news release from Stark's family Saturday said he was born Oct. 3, 1915.
Stark's career as producer was notable for his association with Barbra Streisand
The son-in-law of Fanny Brice (news), Stark had long desired to dramatize
life of the great Broadway singer and comedienne. He put together a stage
musical, "Funny Girl." To play Fanny he chose Streisand, then establishing
herself as a dynamic singer with Broadway and television appearances.
"Funny Girl" and Streisand became the hits of Broadway with the
in New York on March 24, 1964. Stark converted it into a glittering movie,
Streisand's debut film. For director he chose William Wyler, a three-time Oscar
winner who had never directed a musical. Herbert Ross staged the musical
"Funny Girl" won Streisand an Oscar as best actress (shared in
a tie with
Katharine Hepburn (news) for "The Lion in Winter"). She made three more films
under her contract with Stark — "The Owl and the Pussycat," "The Way We Were"
and "Funny Lady." Even after they parted, they remained friends.
Stark films also won Academy Awards (news - web sites) for George Burns (news)
("The Sunshine Boys"), Richard Dreyfus ("The Goodbye Girl") and Maggie Smith
(news) ("California Suite").
As a producer, Stark maintained long-term relationships with directors, writers
and stars, some of whom he had represented as an agent. He made 10 films with
Neil Simon, eight with Herbert Ross, five with Jackie Gleason (news), four with
Streisand, four with John Huston (news) and three with Sydney Pollack (news).
In 1980, Stark received the Motion Picture Academy's highest prize for a
producer: the Irving G. Thalberg Award for consistent high quality of
Referring to the legendary MGM production head, presenter Kirk Douglas (news)
remarked: "Ray does what Irving used to do."
Stark replied: "Thank you, Kirk, I couldn't have said it better myself."
Stark also enjoyed his reputation as a film industry power broker. Company
and financiers often sought his advice and counsel. For many years, he was one
of the biggest stockholders in Columbia Pictures, and he was influential in
company policy. When he was upset over how the new production head, David
Puttnam, was running the studio, he reportedly pulled strings and had Puttnam
When Coca-Cola bought Columbia for $750 million in 1982, Stark played a
behind-the-scenes role in the sale. He took his Columbia holdings in Coke stock;
by 1987 he had shares worth $44 million. In 1984, Forbes magazine estimated his
net worth at at least $175 million.
Stark was educated at Rutgers University in New Jersey and first worked as
reporter and publicist. After World War II, he entered the agency business,
starting with radio writers as clients, then moving up to authors such as John
P. Marquand, Thomas Costain and Ben Hecht.
In Hollywood, he joined Charles Feldman's agency, Famous Artists, and learned
the ins and outs of movie deals. Among the clients: William Holden (news), John
Wayne (news), Richard Burton (news), Kirk Douglas and Marilyn Monroe (news).
In 1957, Stark and Eliot Hyman formed Seven Arts Productions, which supplied
television and feature movies. While there, Stark produced "The World of Suzie
Wong" (William Holden), Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana" (Richard
Burton, Ava Gardner (news)) and "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (Marlon Brando
(news), Elizabeth Taylor (news)). Stark left Seven Arts in 1966 to form Rastar Productions. His first film: "Funny
Other Rastar films include: "Fat City," "Murder by Death,"
Detective," "Chapter Two," "The Electric Horseman," "Annie," "Brighton Beach
Memoirs," "Nothing in Common," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Biloxi Blues," "Steel Magnolias," "Revenge." In 1993, he ventured into
television, making the docudrama "Barbarians at the Gates" for HBO.
Stark was long married to Frances Brice. They had two children, including a son
who died of a drug overdose. Stark owned a horse farm where he raised
thoroughbreds for his racing stable, and he and his wife accumulated one of the
most impressive art collection in the film community.
In a rare public statement, Stark in 1999 answered a Los Angeles Times request
for his philosophy about film making. In his essay, Stark deplored the trend
toward homogenization of movies:
"Films work best when they're specific; oddly enough, the more specific,
more universal the story. For example: check those artists who've had an impact
on films: Orson Welles (news), Chaplin, Bergman, Hitchcock, John Ford (news),
and writers like Neil Simon, Ben Hecht, Tennessee Williams. They never tailored
their works for the largest audience possible. Instead, the largest audience
came to them."