Go Do That Voodoo That You Do – Harvey Korman

The way that gas prices are going up and as more people are trying to find ways to cuts costs I can’t help but think of the 1979 movie “Americathon.” The films premise is that sometime in the near future, the USA has run out of oil, and many Americans are literally living in their now stationary cars and either jog or ride bicycles to travel. The federal government, now moved to Marina del Rey, California, is near bankruptcy as the dollar is worthless. The President, played by John Ritter, hires celebrity Monty Rushmore (Harvey Korman) to host a telethon to raise money in gold. It seems that no matter how difficult situations became Americans refused to give up watching television. The movie starred not only John Ritter and Harvey Korman but Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Nancy Morgan, Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, Meat Loaf, and Tommy Lasorda. (Don’t look for it on DVD since it never has been released.)

One of my favorite scenes is when Harvey Korman sings to the TV audience ” give us all your gold.. gold ..gold.” Proving that he could do both comedy, dance and sing. He was very talented.

Harvey Korman (Left) with Mel Brooks (Right) in the 1974 comedy

I was shocked to see that Harvey Korman has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 81. He left a litany of characters behind but the one he will be most remembered for is that of Hedy.. sorry that’s Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles. He also spent 10 years on The Carol Burnett Show developing hundreds of personalities for the series. For these zany characterizations, Korman was nominated seven times for Emmys for his television work and won four. He also was nominated for four Golden Globe awards, winning one.

Harvey Herschel Korman was born in Chicago on February 15, 1927. He started acting in school plays in kindergarten was hire by a local radio station while in high school. Leaving college for service in the United States Navy, Korman later resumed his studies at the Goodman School of Drama at the Chicago Art Institute.

He moved to New York and could not find work “on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway,” he told a reporter in 1971.

In the early 60’s, moving back to Chicago Korman worked as a movie theater doorman for three years before getting his show-business break with Danny Kaye. Relocationing to Hollywood and began working regularly on “The Danny Kaye Show” in 1964. He stayed with the show until its cancellation in 1967, the year that he joined the cast of The Carol Burnett Show in its first season. He worked along side Burnett as well as Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. (Conway and he would have a friendship and partnership that lasted till Korman’s death.)

Korman also did voice-over work on commercials and cartoons like Tom and Jerry but animation fans will remember him as the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones. The October 29, 1965 episode of The Flintstones introduced a little helmeted spaceman from the future consigned to the Earth’s past in punishment for his crimes. The alien would show up in 10 shows and in the live action movies as well all with Korman as the voice.

Korman made more than 30 films, including four comedies directed by funnyman Mel Brooks, who first discovered him when his wife, the late Anne Bancroft, saw him on “The Carol Burnett Show” and said he was perfect for his upcoming movie 1974’s “Blazing Saddles.” It would be one of Korman’s best known roles in films as he played the leering mayor Hedley Lamarr — who couldn’t stand people calling him Hedy.

Other Brooks comedies included “High Anxiety”, “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” and “The History of the World Part I” where he played the evil Count de Monet.

He also appeared in the “Pink Panther” movies Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).

As well, he was in the movies Gypsy, Huckleberry Finn (as the King) and Herbie Goes Bananas, and the TV-movie Bud and Lou (as Bud Abbott opposite Buddy Hackett’s Lou Costello).

Korman guest-starred in dozens of TV series, including The Donna Reed Show, Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, Burke’s Law, The Wild Wild West, The Muppet Show, The Love Boat and The Roseanne Show.

For about the last eight years, until late last December, Harvey Korman teamed up with his old TV partner, Tim Conway and they toured the country in a stage show that, more than anything, was a homage to their years with Burnett. They performed about 120 shows a year.

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Say Goodnight Dick – Laugh-in’s Dick Martin

One show my mother would never let me watch in the late 60’s was “Rowen & Martin’s Laugh In.” She told me it had too much hippy stuff in it. The show was what all the kids at school were talking about so I really wanted to see it. When I did get to was when I disobeyed Mom and went over to my friends house to watch it.

Dick Martin (Right) with partner Dan Rowan (Left) giving out the weekly Fickle Finger Award on TV's Laugh-In.

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was an American sketch comedy television program which ran for 140 episodes from January 22, 1968 to May 14, 1973. It broke barriers with its mix of zany, off-beat satire, surrealism and slapstick in stark contrast to the pattern of songs and sketches followed by most light entertainment shows.

Emmy-winning comedian, actor, director, producer Dick Martin has taken his Final Taxi at age 86.

Dick Martin and comedy partner Dan Rowan changed the face of TV and launched the careers of many talented people including Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Artie Johnson, Tiny Tim, Ruth Buzzi, Flip Wilson and Henry Gibson. Dick Martin and Dan Rowen were nominated for four Emmy awards, winning in 1969.

Dick Martin, who was born in Michigan in 1922, grew up with a love of comedy, and wrote radio scripts in the Forties. His early performing credits include a bit part inFather’s Little Dividend (1951) with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.

He met Dan Rowan late in 1951, shortly after seeing the double act of Martin and Lewis and deciding “it looked like a lot of fun”. A few weeks later the double act of Rowan and Martin was born, and the team played night-clubs. Their career was given a boost after they performed as the opening act for Nat “King” Cole at a club at Lake Tahoe. Cole kept them on for a worldwide tour ending, after which they were given a four-week engagement in Las Vegas.

Though their names were now known enough for them to star in a low-budget western spoof, Once Upon a Horse (1958), they were still an “opening act”, and from 1962 to 1964 Martin alone had a recurring television role in The Lucy Show. The team made frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Perry Como Show, and in 1966 they were hired by NBC when Dean Martin asked them to be hosts of The Dean Martin Summer Show. Their success prompted NBC to offer them their own show, the duo replying that they had “something a little different” in mind.

The first Laugh-In special was transmitted in September 1967 and, though the network was not happy with it, critical response was so positive that it was given a 13-week run. Slotted opposite two of the country’s biggest television successes, Gunsmoke and The Lucy Show, it was not predicted to survive, but by the eighth show it was the number one program in the US.

The show created numerous catchphrases including, “Verrry Eeenteresting!,” “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls,!,” “You bet your sweet bippy!, ” “Here come de’ judge!” and “Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”

Following the success if “Laugh-In” Rowen and Martin starred in the horror comedy “The Maltese Bippy.” Dick Martin acted in a number of films and TV shows without Dan Rowen. They include “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “The Love Boat,” “Zero to Sixty,” “The Glass Bottom Boat,” “The Lucy Show” and “Father’s Little Dividend.”

Dick Martin also enjoyed a successful career as a TV director. His directing credits include “In the Heat of the Night,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Sledge Hammer!,” “Newhart,” “The Redd Foxx Show,” “Mama’s Family,” “Goodnight, Beantown,” “Family Ties,” “Archie Bunker’s Place” and “House Calls.”

Oscar and Emmy-winning director – Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack, the actor, in 1982's Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman in drag and in 2007's Michael Clayton with George Clooney

In Christmas of 1982 I was working for Cobb Theaters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when I was lucky to play what would become one of my favorite movies. The film was called Tootsie, and it starred Dustin Hoffman as a respected but perfectionist actor on the verge of turning forty. Nobody in New York wants to hire him anymore because he is so difficult to work with. Not having worked in four months, he eventually hears of an opening on the soap opera “Southwest General Hospital” (a parody of General Hospital) from his friend Sandy Lester (Teri Garr), who initially tries out for the role but doesn’t get it. In desperation, he cross-dresses and eventually wins the part. Besides Hoffman and Garr, Toosie also starred Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Bill Murray, George Gaynes, Lynne Thigpen and Geena Davis (in her film debut). It also starred Sydney Pollack who was also the film’s director.I was shock to learn that Oscar and Emmy-winning director and producer Sydney Pollack had taken his Final Taxi at 73. My wife and I had just rented Michael Clayton a film from 2007 where he appeared opposite George Clooney. This was a film which he also co-produced.

Sydney Irwin Pollack was born in 1934 in Lafayette, Indiana, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Mr. Pollack developed a love of drama at South Bend High School and went to New York and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. He studied there for two years teaching acting but also appearing onstage and in television.

Pollack had a notable role in a 1959 “Playhouse 90” telecast of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and also appeared on Broadway with Zero Mostel in “A Stone for Danny Fisher” and with Katharine Cornell and Tyrone Power in “The Dark Is Light Enough.”

Turning to directing he landed an assignment on the television series “Shotgun Slade” and on a few episodes of “Ben Casey, “Naked City,” “The Fugitive” and other well-known shows. In 1966 he won an Emmy for directing an episode of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater.”

Sydney Pollack directed five films during the 1960s. His feature debut was “The Slender Thread” which starred Sidney Portier and Ann Bancroft. The movie received two Oscar nominations. His second film was the first of seven collaborations with actor Robert Redford. “This Property is Condemned” starred Redford, Natalie Wood and Charles Bronson. Miss Wood received a Golden Globe nomination for the film. Pollack and friend Burt Lancaster teamed up for Pollack’s next two films as director. “The Scalphunters” is an underrated comedic Western. “Castle Keep” is an interesting misfire that wants to be a surreal anti-war film. Lancaster called on Pollack to finish directing his adaptation of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” following creative differences with director Frank Perry. Sydney Pollack’s final film of the 1960s was one of his best. “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” received nine Oscar nominations including Pollack’s first as Best Director. Gig Young won a well-deserved Best Supporting Oscar for his performance as the organizer of the Depression-era dance marathon.

Pollack directed six films during the 1970s. His first film of the decade was 1972’s “Jeremiah Johnson.” It was his second collaboration with Robert Redford. Pollack was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes for the film. The following year Mr. Pollack directed Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand in “The Way We Were.” The film earned six Oscar nominations including a Best Actress for Streisand. Sydney Pollack’s “The Yakuza” is one of the best crime films of all time. Robert Mitchum is tough as nails as a WWII vet who returns to Japan to help out an old war buddy. The excellent supporting cast includes Brian Keith, Herb Edelman and Richard Jordon. In 1975 Pollack once again teamed up with Robert Redford for the thriller “Three Days of the Condor.” Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and Faye Dunaway co-starred in the Oscar-nominated film. His last tow films of the 70’s were “Bobby Deerfield” and “The Electric Horseman.”

During the 1980s he only directed three films. “Absence of Malice” The film chalked up three Oscar nominations. Next came the gender-bending comedy “Tootsie.” Pollack not only produced and directed but also acted in the film as Dustin Hoffman’s agent. The movie earned ten Oscar nominations. Mr. Pollack received his second Best Director nod and his first nomination for Best Picture. Jessica Lange won for Best Supporting actress. His final film as director in the 1980s was “Out of Africa.” Once again, he teamed up with Robert Redford. The film received ten Oscar nominations and won six. Mr. Pollack won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for “Out of Africa.”

Other films included, 1990’s “Havana” (His final film with Robert Redford.) 1993’s “The Firm” the remake of “Sabrina” and “The Interpreter.”

Sidney Pollack also produced a number of films for other filmmakers. His many producer credits include “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Presumed Innocent,” “White Palace,” “Dead Again,” “Flesh and Bone,” “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Dead Again,” “Heaven,” “40 Shades of Blue” and “Cold Mountain.”

Barbarella’s Blind Angel – John Phillip Law

One of the first VHS movies I can remember renting, once I bought a machine, was a 1968 film called Barbarella. It is a erotic sci-fi film based on the French Barbarella comics and starring Jane Fonda.

Barbarella is famous for a sequence in which Fonda undresses in zero gravity during the opening credits. It also stars Milo O’Shea as Durand-Durand ( Yes, the 80’s band Duran-Duran got their name from this film) and John Phillip Law as the blind angel, Pygar.

John Phillip Law plays the angel Pygar in the 1968 film

Tall, blond stage and screen actor John Phillip Law has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 70.

Born in Los Angeles on September 7, 1937, Law was the son of Los Angeles County deputy sheriff John Law and actress Phyllis Sallee. He grew up on Hollywood studio back lots and was a second-generation graduate of Hollywood High. While at the University of Hawaii he took drama classes and decided to become an actor.

Moving to New York in the early 1960s, made his Broadway debut in Garson Kanin’s “Come One Strong” with Van Johnson and Carroll Baker. He then appeared in the original New York production of “The Changeling” with Fay Dunaway at Lincoln Center. He stalked the stage in two productions of “Dracula,” and won the hearts of children as The Aviator in “The Little Prince.”

Going to Europe, Law worked in several Italian films, where director Norman Jewison spotted him. Law’s star rose when Jewison cast him as young Soviet submariner Alexei Kolchin, who successfully romanced a teenage babysitter in 1966’s “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming”, a 1966 Cold War comedy set in New England.

The following year, the role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer – Male. Also in 1967, he received fifth place in the Golden Laurel nominations for Male New Face. Law became a sex symbol in the 1960s. He was a VIP guest at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion and in Hollywood society.

In 1968,Law next gained fame as bronzed angel Pygar in “Barbarella”, Roger Vadim’s science-fiction fantasy starring Fonda, who was married to the director at the time. Wearing huge, feathery wings, Pygar protected Fonda’s gun-toting, go-go-booted heroine in outer space.

His subsequent films included “Hurry Sundown” (1967), “The Sergeant” (1968 ) opposite Rod Steiger, and “The Red Baron” (1970). Law starred in the 1971 flop “The Love Machine” (based on Jacqueline Susann’s pulp novel) as ruthless Robin Stone.

Law starred in more than 50 films produced in over 20 countries. He appeared in many action-adventure movies, including “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1974), “The Cassandra Crossing” (1977) and “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1981). Other movies included “Danger Diabolik”, “The Hawaiians” and “Death Rides A Horse.”

Law appeared opposite numerous distinguished European and U.S. actors, including Alan Arkin, Claudia Cardinale, Bo Derek, Ava Gardner, Mel Gibson, Richard Harris, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, Groucho Marx, Sam Neil, Anthony Quinn, George Raft and Ugo Tognazzi. He worked for such noted producers and directors as Robert Wise, Otto Preminger, Carlo Ponti, Franco Rossi, Dino De Laurentiis, George Cosmatos and Dennis Hopper.

In television, guest-starred as Jim Grainger (Cricket’s father) on the daytime TV drama “The Young and the Restless.”

As his career began in the 1960s, Law lived in a 1924 Los Feliz mansion with brother Tom, a former road manager for Peter, Paul and Mary. The two brothers made the residence — known as the Castle — a gathering place for such up-and-coming pop singers and artists as Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Tiny Tim. The experience was documented in the 1987 photo and text collection Flashing on the Sixties by Tom’s former wife, Lisa Law.

In 1997, Law had a rare turn in cartoons in episodes of “Spider-Man: The Animated Series”, guesting as the Cat/John Hardesky.

In 2001 he appeared in Roman Coppola’s directorial debut “CQ”, a homage to the Italian spy/sci-fi B-movies in which Law often starred during the 1960s

Mr. Peabody Creator- Ted Key

Saturday mornings started really early in my house. My parents were not part of the morning but my little brother was. He and I would get up by 6:30. The rest of the week we would not want to get up till much later but Saturday was “Cartoon Day.” The multicolored animation would keep us entertained for hours.

One of my favorite programs was the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. It was the adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle J. Moose. The show ran from 1959 to 1973 and then in syndication. Besides Rocky and Bullwinkle we were also given short filler cartoons such as Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody’s Improbable History, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and Mr. Know-It-All. The most enjoyable for me was Mr. Peabody.

It is cartoonist Ted Key, creator of time-traveling dog scientist Peabody and his boy Sherman, who has taken his Final Taxi at age 95.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman have been pop culture favorites since they first appeared in the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segment of animation producer Jay Ward’s Rocky and His Friends in 1959. (Ward was a childhood friend of Ted’s brother Leonard.)

Featuring the voices of Bill Scott (Mr. Peabody) and Walter Tetley (Sherman), “Peabody’s Improbable History” appeared in 91 four-minute segments. A major live-action motion picture of their adventures is in production.

Key also created the cartoon character Hazel, a popular feature in the Saturday Evening Post since 1943. The wisecracking maid became a regular feature in the magazine.

Later, Hazel appeared in books collecting the cartoons, a syndicated newspaper strip, and a live-action sitcom which ran for four years on NBC and one more on CBS. Shirley Booth, the TV show’s title character, won two Emmy awards for her performances.

The author of four children’s books (one of which was made into a movie), Key wrote the storylines of four live-action Disney films: The Million Dollar Duck (1971), Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973), Gus (1976) and The Cat from Outer Space (1978).

He created the comic feature Diz and Liz, which ran in popular children’s magazine Jack and Jill from 1961 through 1972.

Ted Key was born Theodore Keyser in Fresno, California on August 25, 1912. Graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1933, he moved to New York, freelancing cartoons for magazines and occasionally writing for radio. Eventually, he headed to Philadelphia, continuing to draw cartoons and write stories.

Although he retired in 1993, King Features still syndicates the Hazel strip, using material that he prepared for his retirement.

Sex Sells – The Last of the Hammer Film Scream Queens

Many readers have heard me talk about watching movies on TV in the afternoons while I was growing up. They combined it with a game show to make sure you watched. Many of the movies the TV station played were low horror films made by Hammer Film Productions. This is a film production company in the United Kingdom that was founded in 1934. It is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films produced from the late 1950s until the 1970s. Hammer films were cheap to produce but nonetheless appeared lavish, making use of quality British actors and cleverly designed sets. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success.

Many of the movies starred recurring actors as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ralph Bates, Oliver Reed and many more. There were also beginning roles in the Hammer films for actors like Peter Graves, David Carradine , Dirk Benedict ,Dean Stockwell and 007’s Pierce Brosnan.
Besides the men there was also some very sexy women who played in those movies. In the last week we have lost two of the Hammer film top scream queens. Hazel Court and Julie Ege have taken their Final Taxi.

Julie Ege

— Julie Ege was a Norwegian actress and model in the 60’s and early 70’s. Born in the south-west coast of Norway in 1943 Ede was brought to the public’s eye when appeared on the Miss Universe pageant in Florida in 1962 and then did some modeling in Penthouse magazine.

In 1967, she made her acting debut playing a German masseuse in “The Sky and the Ocean”, a low-budget Norwegian film. In 1969, Ege’s stunning looks caught the eye of the film producer Albert Broccoli, who cast her in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only James Bond film to feature George Lazenby as the lead. In that role she played “The Scandinavian Girl” one of the 10 women of different nationalities being brainwashed by Blofeld, the villain portrayed by Telly Savalas.

In 1970, Ede played opposite Marty Feldman in the comedy Every Home Should Have One. ( A film that I wish would come out on DVD.) It was her first role with more than a little dialogue.
She made a fatal career choice next by turning down a role with Peter Sellers in the saucy comedy “There’s a Girl in My Soup.” The role went to Goldie Hawn and that part helped launch Hawn’s career.

Instead she signed up with Hammer to do Creatures the World Forgot. While other caveman movies like “One Million B.C.” and “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” did well while giving us sexy girls and stop-motion animation dinosaurs, “Creatures the Earth Forgot” gave us only the sexy girls and a poor plot. The film did help Julie Ege to become a pin-up queen following the film’s release with her in tight and erotic cavegirl costume.

She also starred in ’70s B movies, including The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The Final Programme, and The Mutations, and the British comedies Up Pompeii, The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins and Not Now, Darling.

In the Seventies, Ege lived for several years with the Beatles associate Tony Bramwell and recorded a version of “Love”, a John Lennon composition originally featured on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in 1970. She subsequently went back to Norway and took up photography before training as a nurse in the Eighties.

In 2005, she featured in the BBC documentary Crumpet! A Very British Sex Symbol. She died at the age of 64 from breast cancer.

Hazel Court

— Hammer Film actress Hazel Court took her Final Taxi at age 82. The British star became a scream queen of the first magnitude in the 1957 Hammer horror film “The Curse of Frankenstein.” Ms. Court played Elizabeth opposite Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein. She was menaced by the Creature played by Christopher Lee. This was the first and among the best of the gothic horror films made by Hammer. In 1959 Ms. Court reteamed with actor Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher for Hammer’s “The Man Who Could Cheat Death.” In 1961 Ms. Court starred opposite Kieron Moore in “Dr. Blood’s Coffin.”

All of these films have become cult film fan favorites.

Born in Birmingham England in 1926 Court set her sights on an acting career at an early age by appearing with thee with the Birmingham repertory company. Her sister sent her photograph to the film director Anthony Asquith and she was given a small role in Champagne Charlie (1944), a salute to Edwardian musical halls starring Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway.

Following that was Dreaming (1944), followed by another period musical, Gaiety George (1946). Her popularity grew when she played Sally Gray’s crippled sister in Carnival (1946) and Phyllis Calvert’s sister in The Root of All Evil (1947).

She was given her first starring role teamed with the American actor William Eythe in Meet Me at Dawn (1947). And in 1949 she gave a spirited portrayal of a fairground ice-cream vendor who falls in love with a married man (Douglas Montgomery) in Forbidden.

She starred in two “B” thrillers, Ghost Ship (1952) and Counterspy (1953), then in 1954 she played in the first of her “cult” movies, the low-budget sci-fi tale Devil Girl from Mars, in which a leather-clad Martian (Patricia Laffan) comes to Earth to take men back to her female-dominated domain.

Court’s red hair and green eyes were seen in color for the first time when she was cast in the role which would redefine her persona, Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which not only changed the course of her career, but launched the Hammer horror cycle, stretched existing boundaries of gore, and teamed Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee for the first time.

Court’s next Hammer movie was Fisher’s The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and then Dr Blood’s Coffin (1960). In 1962 she made the first of three films in which she was directed by Roger Corman, The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death ( 1964).

Court described Corman’s The Raven (1963) as her favorite film because everybody laughed and joked and it was fun to work with three such talented giants of horror films, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Court also worked alongside a new upcoming actor named Jack Nickolson. This is a film worth renting just for the cast.

Her many TV credits include “Playhouse 90,” “Thriller,” The Twilight Zone,” “Bonanza,” “Rawhide,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Mission Impossible,” “Mannix” and “McMillan & Wife.” Hazel. Court made her final screen appearance in a cameo in “Damien 3: The Final Conflict.” The “Omen” sequel was directed by her second husband Don Taylor.

Soft Rock Superstar- Paul Davis

I cannot help but think of life in the 1970s whenever I hear the music of Paul Davis. His tunes still play in my head as I think back of those years. Many of Davis song are still played today on the many soft rock stations. His career encompassed soul, country and pop music, and he wrote many memorable country music hits.

Paul Davis has taken his Final Taxi at 60.

Born Paul Lavon Davis on April 21, 1948, he became a member of a local group called the “Six Soul Survivors” around 1966 and later in another group called the “Endless Chain.” In 1968 he was a writer for Malaco Records, based at Jackson, MS.

Ilene Berns, widow of Bert Berns (the man who signed Van Morrison and Neil Diamond) signed Davis to Bang Records in 1969, and in 1970, released a cover of The Jarmels’ hit song “A Little Bit of Soap”, reaching #52 on the Billboard pop charts. His first album, A Little Bit of Paul Davis, was released in 1970. in 1974 he recorded his third album, Ride ‘Em Cowboy, which garnered a Top 40 for the title track. The same song also became a hit for Juice Newton in 1984.

Davis had his first American Top 10 single with the ballad “I Go Crazy,” which peaked at #7 in 1978. “I Go Crazy” spent 40 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, which at the time set the single-song record for most consecutive weeks on the chart in the rock era. The corresponding album Singer of Songs – Teller of Tales was a modest success, peaking at #82 on the Billboard pop album chart. Nother song from that LP was a hit called “Sweet Life.” He was the last artist active on the Bang Records label when it folded in 1981.

In 1981 he signed with Arista Records and had two more Top 20 singles, “Cool Night” (which rose to #11) and “’65 Love Affair” (which rose to #6). Davis retired from making records, except for two duet singles that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts. The first was in 1986 with Marie Osmond on “You’re Still New To Me” while the second was in 1988 was a collaboration with Tanya Tucker and Paul Overstreet on “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love”.

Although Davis had ultimately retired from the music industry, he was in the process of sitting down and writing more music at the time of his death.

The beauty of his music has stood the test of time. Paul Davis’ songs can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as “The Karate Kid,” “About Last Night…,” “Texasville” and “24 Hour Party People.”