Alan Rickman – More Than Just Snape

I really hate how the media sometimes summarize someone’s life in a few words.king-louis

Many times they will look at an incredible actor and only see a few of the more popular roles he played and miss the greater body of work. They are doing that now with Alan Rickman.

Actor Alan Rickman took his Final Taxi at age 69 because of cancer. He has done so many wonderful films that have touched our lives but the news mostly focuses on the franchises, Harry Potter and Die Hard.

I first took notice of Rickman as an actor in the movie “Truly, Madly, Deeply” in 1990. This was two years after Die Hard. In it he plays Jamie, a dead musician so in love that death cannot keep him apart from his lover. It was kind of a thinking man’s “Ghost.”

 

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One of my daughter’s favorite Rickman films is Ang Lee’s ” Sense and Sensibility” from 1995. This adaption of Jane Austin’s book has Rickman playing Colonel Brandon as a rich and worthy suitor for Marianne, played by Kate Winslet. This would not be the only time Winslet and Richman worked together. In 2015 Rickman directed ” A Little Chaos” with her as his lead ( He gives a great portrayal of King Louis XIV.)

Many fans will remember his role in 1999’s Galaxy Quest. Playing Alexander Dane, a Shakespearean actor who had found himself trapped and most fondly remembered for an alien on a silly sci-fi TV show. He did not hide the fact he hated it and we all thought it was hilarious as it echoed reality with a great spoof of Star Trek’s Spock. ( “By Grabnar’s Hammer!” )

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I will always remember Rickman’s voice. It conveyed a wide range – from dripping sarcasm to great comic pomposity. He proved that in one of my favorite roles as Marvin the paranoid robot in 2005’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. With a brain as big as a Volkswagen, Marvin was utterly depressed by having to hanging out with other life forms that were less intelligent than him. Rickman was actually one of the best at that kind of deadpan comic delivery. He used his voice only again in 2010’s Alice In Wonderland as the Blue Caterpillar a role that he repeated for the 2016 sequel.

There are so many other great films by Rickman you should see- The Cohen Brother’s “Gambit,” “Bottle Shock” Lee Daniel’s “The Butler” and “Something The Lord Made”. Alan Rickman will be missed for many reasons — his dry wit, incredible English humor, and most importantly for his ability to completely capture our attention on the big screen with his incredible performances. ..and that unforgettable voice.

 

 

 

Edited by Lesa Rosato Burson

Oh Captain My Captain- Goodbye Robin Williams

faces of Robin

Back in 1974 director George Lucas created a fad with the film “American Graffiti”. Nostalgia for the 1950’s echoed throughout the movie and soon all the media were recalling the decade. Movies, music and TV series started popping up recreating that innocent chapter in American life. One of the more popular TV shows was “Happy Days”, starring Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. This series was so popular that it spawned several others including “Laverne & Shirley”, “Joanie Loves Chachi” and “Mork & Mindy”, among others.  In “Mork & Mindy” a space alien lands on Earth to report observations on its inhabitants back to his home planet, Ork. The only thing the show had going for it was a fresh faced comedian, Robin Williams. Williams’ wild antics and manic improvisational comedic talent made the show worth watching.

Sadly, Robin Williams, often labeled the “Funniest Man in the World”, has taken his Final Taxi.

Two entertainers shine the brightest in my memories of high school in the 70’s. Steve Martin in his white suit, with his “wild and crazy guy” act, and Robin Williams sporting rainbow suspenders while delivering an Orkiain handshake, saying “Na-Nu Na-Nu” as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The catchphrase among my classmates back in the day was “Shazbot”, a made-up swear word from the show that made us feel like we were all in on the joke.

Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator Anselm J. McLaurin. Robin briefly studied political science before enrolling at Juilliard School to study theatre. After he left Juilliard, he performed in nightclubs, which is where he was discovered for the role of Mork.

In 1980 the first movie Williams did was Robert Altman’s “Popeye” based on the comic / cartoon created by E.C. Segar. He was able to capture the style of the early Popeye and the comedy came from the low mutterings under his breath.  It was a great role from him but the film did not do so well at the box office.

I was lucky to be working as a theatre manager for a chain in 1982 when “The World According to Garp” came out. The trailer made the film look like a comedy- and several people came to the movie excepting to see “Mork” on the big screen. The film was very dark and preachy with a few black comedy bits scatter about. I had many people walk out during the movie. This was Williams telling the public he was not “Mork” and making it clear he wanted more serious roles. “Garp” continues to be one of my favorite Robin Williams movies – giving us what life is really like. It has ups and downs, happy and sad moments and before you know it – it’s over.

From that point on Williams was able to mix comedy and drama. He knew how to wear the mask. There was a palpable energy around him. Whether he was Adrian Cronauer of “Good Morning, Vietnam” or Patch Adams, there was that fine balance of drama and comedy. Even with “Mrs. Doubtfire” he so eloquently portrayed the sadness of a father missing his children while hamming it up as the crazy nanny he played just to be near them. The balance was there. It echoed throughout “Hook,” Bicentennial Man” and “The Fisher King.”

William played pure comedy roles in “The Survivors,” “Aladdin,” “Flubber,”Night At The Museum,” and “RV” to name a few. He could also play very creepy and dark characters such as  twisted Seymour Parrish in “One Hour Photo”  or villains in “Insomnia” and TV shows like  “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

After being nominated for an Academy Award several times for films ( including my favorite, “Dead Poet’s Society”) William won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Sean Maguire in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting“.

Robin Williams has always been one of my favorite actors. While my policy here on the Final Taxi has been to never write about someone who took their own life, this is different. Williams suffered from a sickness which was kept in the shadows up until his death. Depression can make you do things you would not normally do and we need to not judge him by this.

I thought about Juan de Dios Peza‘s famous poem about English actor David Garrick, “To Laugh While Crying.” The poem is about a man who is depressed and goes to see a doctor.

It reads:
“Nothing holds any enchantment or attractiveness;
I don’t care about my name or my fate
I die living an eternal melancholy
and my only hope is that of death”.

The doctor tells him go to see Garrick. He will make him laugh and forget his worry and pains. The man begins to cry that he is Garrick.

The last lines are moving and remind me of Williams:

How many are there who, tired of life,
ill with pain, dead with tedium,
make others laugh as the suicidal actor,
without finding a remedy for their illness!

Ay! How often we laugh when we cry!
Nobody trust the merriment of laughter,
because in those beings devoured by pain,
the soul groans when the face laughs!

If faith dies, if calm flees,
if our feet only step on thistles,
the tempest of the soul hurls to the face,
a sad lighting: a smile.

The carnival of the world is such a trickster,
that life is but a short masquerade;
here we learn to laugh with tears
and also to cry with laughter.

God Bless Robin Williams—Thanks for all the joy you gave us.

Quote from Robin Williams in the movie” Jack”:

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular.”

( Written by Jeff Burson; Edited by Lesa Rosato)

Favorite Native American, Egyptian, Klingon, Michael Ansara, Dies

Michael Ansara, 91, TV, screen, and voice actor best known for his portrayal of Cochise in the American television series “Broken Arrow”has taken his Final Taxi.  Another popular role was that of Klingon Commander Kang on three different Star Trek TV series.  He was one of only a handful of actors to boldly go from “Star Trek [the Original Series]” to “Deep Space Nine” to “Voyager” – playing the exact same character on each of them.

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Ansara played Kane in the 1979–81 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart on the NBC series, Law of the Plainsman. He guest starred on many of the most well-known television series of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” “The Rifleman,” “The Untouchables,” “Perry Mason,” “The Outer Limits,” “Ben Casey,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Lost in Space,” “Bewitched,” “The Fugitive,” “The Mod Squad,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hawaii 5-0” and “Kojak.” 

In later years he took on several voice acting roles, providing the voice for Mr. Freeze in “Batman: The Animated Series” and General Warhawk in the Rambo cartoon.  Ansara was married for 16 years to Barbara Eden who is best known for her role in the hit sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie”.  They even acted together in that series three times.

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Voice of Aquaman, Norman Alden, Character Actor for 50 Years Dies

The first celebrity I ever met was an actress called Judy Strangis. It was at Universal Studios in California in the mid 70’s. I watched her on a TV series called “Room 222” and had seen her in a few TV appearances of “Batman.” During these shows she worked alongside Julie Newmar who played the slinky, conniving Catwoman. Electra Woman and Dyna GirlWhen I met Ms. Strangis she was working on “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl”, a children’s Saturday morning program. In this female version of Batman, the women donned outfits with capes and battled a bevy of costumed villains. They operated out of the secret Electrabase, which was headed by Frank Heflin. Heflin designed and built the heroines’ sophisticated equipment, and he helped them track down the bad guy of the week using the mysterious, high tech gadgetry that also gave them their special powers. Heflin was played by Norman Alden, a character actor who had parts in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials.

Norman Alden has taken his final taxi at 87.

Alden entertained me – and countless other children – for many years. I was an avid Justice League of America comic book fan so when the cartoon “Super Friends” came out in 1972, I was jazzed to see some of my favorite heroes every Saturday morning. Alden was the voice of several characters on the show but is perhaps best known as the voice of Aquaman.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Alden got his start on “The Bob Cummings Show” in 1957 and appeared in hundreds of TV series episodes, including ” Rugrats,” “Honey West,” “Fay,” “My Three Sons,” “Bonanza” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Big Valley,” Lassie,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hogan’s Heroes ,” “The Rookies,” “Adam-12,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” “Combat!,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “JAG” and “Rango” where he had a recurring role as Capt. Horton.Norman Alden In the mid 1970s, he starred in episodes of the comedy TV soap opera parody “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” until his character Coach Leroy Fedders drowned in a bowl of soup. I recall him being in the 1960s television series “Batman,” where he played one of the Joker’s henchmen.

One of my favorite Disney films is “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). In the movie, Alden voiced Sir Kay, King Arthur’s brother. He played Johnny Ringo in 1961’s “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” and also had movie roles in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970), “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (1977), “Semi-Tough” (1977), “They Live” (1988), “Ed Wood”(1994), “Patch Adams” (1998),”K-Pax” (2001) and in the 1986 animated film “Transformers” where he played the voice of a Kranix, a robot who narrowly escapes destruction by Unicron, voiced by Orson Welles. Many will remember him in 1985’s “Back to the Future” as the owner of the coffee shop who employs future mayor Goldie Wilson. One of the funniest scenes in the movies is his character’s exchange with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) about “Pepsi Free.”

This multi-talented man – and his face and voice – will be sorely missed.

 

The Black Carpet of the 2011 Academy Awards

Being someone who loves movies I have to watch the Academy Awards every year. So on Sunday night I sat with my girl by my side and watched as we found out who was best actor or actress or what was the best picture of the year. My favorite section is the part where Oscar remembers those who died in 2010, [pays final respects to them and honors their accomplishments]. This year the death reel was fronted by Celine Dion singing “Smile” as the list of names rolled by.

Here is who we saw this year:

John Barry (composer)
Grant McCune (visual effects)
Tony Curtis
Edward Limato (agent)
Tom Mankiewicz (writer)
Gloria Stuart
William Fraker (cinematographer)
Joseph Strick (director)
Lionel Jeffries
Sally Menke (editor)
Ronni Chasen (publicist)
Leslie Nielsen
Robert Radnitz (producer)
Claude Chabrol (director)
Pete Postlethwaite
Bill Littlejohn (animator)
Pierre Guffroy (art director)
Patricia Neal
George Hickenlooper (director)
Irving Ravetch (writer)
Robert Culp
Bob Boyle (art director)
Mario Monicelli (director)
Lynn Redgrave
Elliott Kastner (producer)
Dede Allen (editor)
Peter Yates (producer-director)
Anne Francis
Arthur Penn (producer-director)
Theoni Aldredge (costume designer)
Susannah York
Ronald Neame (director)
David Wolper (producer)
Jill Clayburgh
Alan Hume (cinematographer)
Irvin Kershner (director)
Dennis Hopper
Dino De Laurentiis (producer)
Blake Edwards (writer-director)
Kevin McCarthy
Lena Horne

I almost wish that they had left Kevin McCarthy for last and use the scene in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where he screams “Your Next!!” but it would have spoiled the mood.

Every year the Academy leaves off people that should have been on the list and this year is no exception. First off the list is Peter Graves. Graves deserves to be on that list of beloved actors not for bad sci-fi movies he did or the laughs he gave us as Captain Over in the Airplane( 1980) movies but at least for his involvement in the 1953 World War II film Stalag 17 (1953), acting as a German spy pretending to be a prisoner of war.

Another Airplane ( 1980) actor who was left off the list was Barbara Billingsley. Many will remember her as the mother on Leave It To Beaver but she had a strong start in films with movies like The Bad and the Beautiful (1950), Three Guys Named Mike (1950), with Jane Wyman, and the sci-fi movie Invaders from Mars (1953).

James Gammon should not have been left off the list either. The scruffy actor will be best known as the coach in the Major League movies but he was also in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Urban Cowboy (1980), Silverado (1985), Noon Wine (1985), The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), Wyatt Earp (1994), Wild Bill (1995), Truman (1995), Cold Mountain (2003), and more recently, Appaloosa (2008).

Harold Gould who again will be known for his TV roles was also in the films The Yellow Canary(1963), The Satan Bug (1966); Inside Daisy Clover; and Harper (1966) with Paul Newman. He will also be known for playing Kid Twist in The Sting (1977) and as a villain in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie (1976).

Betty Garrett, a comedic actress who was a fixture in such MGM musicals as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” “Neptune’s Daughter” with Red Skelton and “On the Town” with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, was missing from list.

Others missing include Maria Schneider, a French actress best known for playing Jeanne, opposite Marlon Brando, in the 1972 film, Last Tango in Paris and Maury Chaykin who acted in WarGames (1983), My Cousin Vinny (1992) and had a small but pivotal role in the film Dances with Wolves (1990), portraying Major Fambrough.

The person whose omission from this years’ list was most shocking was Corey Haim. Haim’s may have ended his career with a list of bad direct-to -video movies, but the body of his work is well worth a nod from the Academy. His first noted film was 1984’s thriller Firstborn, starring alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr as a boy whose family comes under threat from his mother’s violent boyfriend, played by Peter Weller. After that the list just gets better with films such as Lucas ( 1986) , Silver Bullet( 1985), Murphy’s Romance (1985), License to Drive (1988) and Dream a Little Dream(1989). The movie that must be remembered is The Lost Boys (1987), which made Haim a household name. It is regarded as a 80s classic and bonded him alongside his friend Corey Feldman to fight teenage vampire Kiefer Sutherland.

Those we lost in 2010

A year comes to an end and in 2010 that end came to several celebrities.

This year we lost so many of the people I watched growing up as a child in the 60’s and 70’s. For years I would watch Tom Bosley as he play Howard Cummingham, the father on TV’s Happy Days. “Mister C” would always have the right words to tell Richie or Fonzie what to do in that weeks subject. If Cummingham was the best father on TV then the best mother would be June Cleaver. On Leave It To Beaver I would watch as Beaver’s mom ( played by the late Barbara Billingsley) would tell his father, “Ward, I’m worried about the Beaver.” Billingley also had a role in the movie Airplane with Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen, who we lost this year. Graves will be remember for the Mission Impossible TV show. Nielsen started out in westerns but found his genre with comedy spoofs. One western star we did have to watch was Daniel Boone. The lead was played by Fess Parker who influenced a nation of boys into wearing coonskin caps.

On the big screen we lost Tony Curtis, one of the last of early the Hollywood icon. Best known for his role in ‘Some Like it Hot,’ he appeared in more than 100 films and was nominated for an Oscar for ‘The Defiant Ones.’ Dennis Hopper’s career spanned more than 50 years. He received two Oscar nominations — for writing Easy Rider & the 1986 drama Hoosiers. He was great as the villain in Speed. Other Oscar nominees we lost include Jill Clayburgh , Lynn Redgrave, and Patricia Neal.

Several people who gave us music left us. Lena Horne is credited with opening the door for black entertainers in Hollywood. I loved hearing her sing Stormy Weather. Also Malcolm McLaren helped lead the way for establishing punk rock music as a music genre.

I would also like to remember two voice actors that have touch everyone’s life. Anyone who has seen the classic 1964 Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer know Rudolph’s voice. It was played by Billie Mae Richards. Another Christmas memory will be “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Christopher Shea played the voice of Linus in those classic Peanuts specials.

It’s always a shock every year as I make this list of who has checked out and taken their Final Taxi to their last resting place. Here is a list of some of those who have become Final Taxi riders in 2010:

DEATHS IN JANUARY

Casey Johnson, 30, socialite who was heiress to the Johnson and Johnson company, was found dead in her Los Angeles home on Jan 4

Art Clokey, an animator who created the pop culture animated Gumby. He was 88.

Eric Rohmer, 89, prolific French filmmaker and founding father of the French New Wave movement

Miep Gies helped hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during the Second World War and saved Anne’s diary after the family was arrested. She was 100.

Teddy Pendergrass, 59, famous R&B singer

Carl Smith, 82, country music and television star of the 1950s and 1960s

Glen W. Bell, founder of Taco Bell food. He was 86.

Erich Segal, 72, an author best known for the romantic tragedy Love Story made into a 1970 movie of the same name

Jean Simmons, 80, actress whose ethereal screen presence and starring roles with Hollywood’s top actors made her widely admired. I loved her is so many roles that there are too many to name. I knew of her in the TV series Dark Shadows and found her again in 2004 when Simmons voiced the lead-role of Sophie in the English dub of Howl’s Moving Castle.

Robert. B. Parker, 77, the crime writer who created the private eye Spenser that became a TV show.

Earl Wild, classical pianist and jazz performer and who wrote music for television programs.

Pernell Roberts Jr. 81, an actor who portrayed the eldest son on Bonanza and a retired army doctor in “Trapper John, MD”

J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye He was 91.

DEATHS IN FEBRUARY

John McCallum, creator of the Australian children’s program Skippy the Bush

Charlie Wilson, 76, the charismatic Democrat from Texas who was instrumental in funding the Afghanistan resistance fighting Soviet occupation after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. He was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the film Charlie Wilson’s WarDick Francis, best selling crime writer. He was 89.

Alexander Haig, 85, American Republican. He was chief of staff to Richard Nixon and helped plan his resignation. He also served in Ronald Reagan’s cabinet.

Therese Rochette, the 55-year-old mother of Olympic figure skater Joannie Rochette, died in hospital shortly after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter compete. She had a heart attack. Rochette skated despite the tragedy and won a bronze medal.

Michael Blosil, the 18-year-old son of American celebrity Marie Osmond, jumped from his Los Angeles area apartment, killing himself. He suffered from depression.

DEATHS IN MARCH

Corey Haim, 38, 1980s child actor who starred in films like Lucas and License To Drive. His best-known role was alongside Corey Feldman in The Lost Boys.

Merlin Olsen, 69, Hall of Fame football player who made a successful transition to television as a commentator on NFL broadcasts and acting on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.

Peter Graves, 83, movie and television actor best known for Mission Impossible and hosting the program Biography. I will always remember him in the film Airplane.

Johnny Maestro , 70, who performed the 1958 doo-wop hit “16 Candles” with the Crests and enjoyed a decades-long career with the Brooklyn Bridge

Fess Parker, 85, actor best known for playing Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s.

Robert Culp, an American actor best known for playing a secret agent in the 1960s era program I Spy and later in the TV show Greatest American Hero. He was 79.

DEATHS IN APRIL

John Forsythe, 92, an actor who was the voice of Charlie on the Charlie’s Angels program and also starred in the show Dynasty.

Corin Redgrave, a brother to Vanessa and Lynn. He worked both in movies and theatre and was a Marxist political activist who attempted to get Prime Minister Tony Blair impeached over his role in the Iraq War. He was 70.

Eddie Carroll, 76, the voice of the Disney cartoon Jiminy Cricket for nearly 40 years not only in TV & movies but in the Kingdom Hearts games. During the 1970s, he co-wrote scripts for Hanna-Barbera and other cartoon studios.

One death that got me this year was that of Malcolm McLaren. He was the creator and manager of the British punk band the Sex Pistols, a leading influence in the punk music genre. Mclaren also managed the New York Dolls and Adam and the Ants. He was 64.

Dixie Carter, 70, an actress best know for playing Julia Sugarbaker in the 1980s television comedy Designing Women, died in Houston of endometrial cancer. She was 70.
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Daryl Gates was the former chief of police in Los Angeles who he was forced to retire after the Rodney King riots in 1992.

Allison Tross, 92, was a WW II hero. She was a linguist and German translator with the Royal Naval Service . She helped break the German cipher code “Enigma” during the Second World War.

Meinhardt Raabe, 94, played the Munchkin coroner in The Wizard of Oz

MC Guru (Keith Elam), 43, was a New York City-based rapper credited with fusing jazz into rap and hip hop.

Lynn Redgrave, 67, actress and playwright who was nominated for Oscars and Tonys, died of breast cancer just months after her brother.

MAY DEATHS

Lena Horne, 92, was a legendary black singer/actress who tried to break the Hollywood color barrier as a star in the 1940s and 1950s.She continued to perform on television, Broadway and nightclubs for decades.

John Shepherd-Barron, credited with making the first automated cash dispenser, first used at Barclay’s Bank in London in 1967.

Jose Lima, 37, was a thirteen-year pitcher in the major leagues for a variety of teams.

Frank Frazetta, 82, illustrator of comic books, movie posters and paperback book covers

Dorothy Kamenshek, 84, was a standout player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a Sports Illustrated top 100 female athlete of the 20th century and was the inspiration for the main character in the 1992 A League of their Own played by Genna Davis.

Art Linkletter. ,97, famous as an television host and interviewer in the 1950s and 1960s

Gary Coleman,42, former child actor from the sitcom Different – “What your talkin’ about Willis?”

Dennis Hopper,74, was a film actor best known now for intense performances in such movies as Rebel Without A Cause Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. He emerged from years of supporting roles to direct and act in the iconic biker movie Easy

Chris Haney, 59, one of the creators of the 1980s board game Trivial Pursuit.

Ali-Ollie Woodson, 58, led the Motown quintet the Temptations in the 1980s and ’90s

JUNE DEATHS

Rue McClanahan, 76, actress best known for playing Blanche Devereaux in the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 1987

Marvin Isley,59, one of the lineup in the successful R&B group the Isley Brothers. He was with them from the doo-wop era of the 1950s through to the 1980s singing Lonely Teardrops, Shout and Its Your Thing.

Stuart Cable, 40, drummer for the British group the Stereophonics

Marina Semyonova, 102, the first great ballerina of the Soviet era, danced and taught for the Bolshoi Ballet from 1930 until her retirement about six years ago.

Jimmy Dean, 81, country singer, television host and sausage entrepreneur. He was known for his 1961 country crossover hit Big Bad John and for his role in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Peter Quaife, 66, was original bassist for the British Invasion era rock band The Kinks. Played on this hits “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night.”

Robert Byrd, 92, the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress. He sat one term in the House, then 51 years in the Senate.

Garry Shider, 56, longtime musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic

JULY DEATHS

Ilene Woods, 81, the voice of Cinderella in the iconic 1950 Disney animated film.

Bob Probert, 45, retired NHL enforcer for the Detroit Red Wings

Jim Bohlen, 84, one of the founders of Greenpeace in the early 1970s

Harvey Pekar, 70, American comic book author best known for the autobiographical series American Splendor. He was play on film by actor Paul Giamatti.

George Steinbrenner, 80, was the owner of the New York Yankees since 1973. Often lampooned on the TV series Senfield.

James Gammon, 70, an character actor who tended to play grizzled father figures in westerns and would be more known for his role as the coach in the Major League movies.

Stephen Schneider, 65, scientist who was a pioneer in climate change research, Schneider was part of the group that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Alex Green,68, legendary film stuntman who did everything from western movies to the Beachcombers on television

Ben Keith, 73, musician who was a longtime collaborator with Neil Young.

Mitch Miller, 99, record producer, Miller created the Sing Along with Mitch albums of standard songs to appeal to older listeners who did not like the new genre of rock and roll music taking over in the late 1950s. The concept was adapted to television with great success a few years later.

Walter Hawkins, 61, famed gospel singer, composer and arranger

Tuli Kupferberg , 86, founding member of the 1960s underground rock group the Fugs

AUGUST DEATHS

Patricia Neal, 84, actress who won an Academy Award for her role in Hud in 1963. Other films include Breakfast at Tiffany’s, All Quiet on the Western Front, & The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Abbey Lincoln, 80, well-known jazz singer, songwriter, actress and civil rights activist whose career spanned the 1950s to 2000s.

Dr. Frank Ryan, 50, plastic surgeon to Hollywood celebrities.

Bobby Thomson, 86, New York Giants baseball player, he hit “the shot heard round the world” to win the 1951 National League pennant.

Laurent Fignon, 50, popular French cyclist and two-time winner of the Tour de France

David L. Wolper, 82, Hollywood impresario whose landmark 1987 television miniseries Roots engrossed the U.S. with its saga of an American family descended from an African slave

Edwin Newman , 91, NBC News correspondent for more than three decades

SEPTEMBER DEATHS

Billie Mae Richards, 88, character actress who was the voice of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the classic 1964 television special.

Harold Gould, 86, character actor whose career spanned nearly 50 years. Gould appeared in popular sitcoms such as Rhoda and The Golden Girls, and movies such as The Sting.

Jackie Burroughs,71. actress best known for playing Aunt Hetty on the Road to Avonlea TV series for six years.

Kevin McCarthy, 96, actor in the science-fiction movie classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers,

Eddie Fisher,82, singer whose crooner style made him popular in the 1950s and early 1960s, he is probably better known now for leaving wife Debbie Reynolds for actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Gloria Stuart, 100, actress from the 1930s and 1940s, she was best known for playing Ros in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic at the age of 87.

Tony Curtis, 85, an actor best known for his matinee idol good looks and for hit films such as Some like it Hot and Spartacus, he’s also remembered by film buffs for his searing portrayal of a hustling publicist in The Sweet Smell of Success.

OCTOBER DEATHS

Joan Sutherland, 83, Australian opera singer, described by Pavaroti as “the voice of the century”

Barbara Billingsley, 94, iconic actress best known for playing June Cleaver, the idealized postwar stay-at-home mom on the television program Leave it to Beaver from 1957-1963. Also played in the movie Airplane.

Tom Bosley,83, stage and television actor best known for playing all-American dad Howard Cunningham on the television show Happy Days. He also played the lead in the TV series Father Dowling Mysteries.

Albertina Walker , 81, Grammy-winning singer from Chicago known as the “Queen of Gospel,”

Alexander Anderson Jr., 90, TV cartoon artist who created Rocky the flying squirrel, Bullwinkle the moose and Dudley Do-Right the Canadian mountie

Bob Guccione, 79, publisher who founded Penthouse magazine and made his fortune in the adult entertainment industry before the rise of Internet pornography.

James MacArthur,72, actor who was the original Danno from the television program Hawaii Five-O. He played that character for 11 seasons .

NOVEMBER DEATHS

George “Sparky” Anderson, 76, legendary baseball coach won World Series titles in both leagues with Cincinnati and Detroit

Jill Clayburgh, 66, actress best known for her Oscar-nominated role in An Unmarried Woman. I loved her in the movie Silver Streak.

Dylan Arminda Burson, 20, daughter of the writer of this blog. I miss her so much

Dino De Laurentiis, 92, Italian film producer responsible for over 500 movies in Italy and the United States, his hits include the first remake of King Kong and the Federico Fellini film La Strada. I first became aware of him in when he made the Conan movies.

Laurie “Bambi” Bembenk, 52, former Playboy Club bunny and Milwaukee police officer who was jailed for killing her husband’s ex-wife in the early 1980s, she became even more infamous when she escaped from a Wisconsin prison and hid in Ontario for three months.

Leslie Nielsen, 84, comedic actor best known now for such film farces as Airplane and the Naked Gun series. Started out in westerns but found more success in comedy. My first film I remember him in was Forbidden Planet.

DECEMBER DEATHS

Don Meredith , 72, star of football (SMU and Dallas Cowboys), TV ( Monday Night Football) and commercials

James Moody , 85, jazz saxophonist who recorded more than 50 solo albums as well as songs with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie , Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King

Blake Edwards, 88, director and writer known for clever dialogue, poignancy and occasional belly-laugh sight gags in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 10 and the Pink Panther comedies with Peter Sellers

Steve Landesberg, 74, actor and comedian best known for his role as Det. Arthur Dietrich on the 1970s and ’80s sitcom Barney Miller

Teena Marie, 54, R&B singer known as “Ivory Queen of Soul,” Dec. 26.

Bernie Wilson, baritone vocalist in the classic lineup of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

Elizabeth Edwards, 61, the estranged wife of former Democratic presidential nominee John Edwards

Dorothy Jones, 76, was a member of the band ‘The Cookies’ who had a hit with the song Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby & Chains

Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller, 92, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians nicknamed “Rapid Robert

Christopher Shea, 52, who was the original voice of Linus in the original Peanuts TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and four subsequent specials

Billy Taylor, 89, US jazz musician and composer, considered one of the foremost ambassadors ofAmerican jazz music.His most famous song, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, became the unofficial anthem of the US civil rights movement.

Agathe von Trapp, 97, a member of the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for “The Sound of Music.” Von Trapp was the oldest daughter of Austrian naval Capt. Georg Ritter von Trapp. His seven children by his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp, were the basis for the singing family in the 1959 play and 1965 film, which won the Oscar for best picture. Agathe, a guitarist, was represented in the film by 16-going-on-17 Liesl, played by Charmian Carr.

Rocky & Bullwinkle Creator, Alex Anderson, Takes Final Taxi

One year we almost forgot Halloween. I was not even in first grade yet so the peer pressure of what costume to wear had not even crossed my mind. My mother was too busy trying to sell a house and having a sick mother to think about instead of getting us kids a costume. Suddenly it was October 31st and we remembered that it was Halloween. We rushed to the local Big B Drugs or Eckerds Pharmacy only to be disappointed with what was left.

The choices came in those plastic masks that just covered your face and were formed into a Saturday morning cartoon character or the cheap latex masks that were so over the top in the horror department that no one wanted them. My mother opted for the plastic mask that year with the matching garbage bag you wore over your clothes. This always had the cartoon character’s body on it.

My brother was Rocky the Flying Squirrel and I was Bullwinkle J Moose. The mask was a little over sized, I remember the elastic band that secured to the mask by metal staples inside the mask,that would always pull my hair and scratch the side of my face. What torture a child endured for a Bit-o-Honey or a vanilla Toostie Roll. By the end of the night my antlers were mangled by having them slammed into the car door every time I closed it.

I do remember I got quite a lot of candy that year. I was fonder of Rocky and Bullwinkle after that Halloween. I watched them more often after that and once they started reruns when I was older I got the adult comedy that was in the show as well.
Rocky and Bullwinkle ran as a new show from 1959 to 1964 on ABC them moved to NBC. It has been running in syndication ever since. At one time it was the highest rated daytime network program.

The characters of Rocky & Bullwinkle were, created by Alex Anderson Jr., Anderson has died at the age of 90.

In an interview in 1991 with the San Francisco Chronicle, Anderson said that he had worked with his uncle Paul Terry of Terrytoons, on the cartoon Mighty Mouse. He didn’t understand the mechanics of how a mouse flew or, for that matter, how Superman flew. Since flying squirrels do fly that gave him the mantle of superness without having to stretch the truth. Thus Rocky the Flying Squirrel evolved. With Bullwinkle, Anderson saw something majestic about moose: “They’re macho, but they have a comic aspect, with that schnozzola of theirs. There are a few creatures just begging to be caricatured.”

Anderson is credited with developing the first cartoon series created for TV, Crusader Rabbit.

He also create another well know cartoon about a dim-witted Canadian Mountie called Dudley Do-Right. In 1999 this was turned into a live-action film starring Brendan Fraser as Do-Right .

It was Alex Anderson’s Bullwinkle creation that helped save my Halloween many years ago, but by the end of the night my costume had taken it own ” final taxi.”