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.

 

Advertisements

Oscar’s Obit Reel: Who Was Left Off?

The 84th Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone and from what I saw it was a good one. Billy Crystal proved once again why he is the best host for the Oscars.

I tried a little something new this year and watched some of the backstage cameras on the ABC.com website. It was an interesting peek into the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of everyone from presenters, caterers, and production assistants to statuette-wielding winners. The Thank You camera, in particular, gave honorees a way of delivering the ‘shout out’ messages that got cut from their acceptance speeches.

Fun – but you still needed to watch the whole event to get the full scope of the occasion.

As a writer for a blog about recently deceased entertainers I always anticipate seeing who the Academy lists among the talented individuals from the film industry who left us during the previous year. Here is the roll call of who we saw last night – for those who missed it.

Jane Russell
Annie Girardot
John Calley (executive producer)
Polly Platt (production designer/producer)
Ken Russell (director/actor/writer)
Donald Peterman (cinematographer)
Farley Granger
Whitney Houston
Bingham Ray (executive)
Tak Miyagishima (design engineer)
Bert Schneider (producer)
Michael Cacoyannis (director/writer/producer)
David Z Goodman (writer)
James Rodnunsky (engineer)
Peter E. Berger (film editor)
Jack J. Hayes (composer/arranger)
Peter Falk
Cliff Robertson
Laura Ziskin (producer/humanitarian)
Sidney Lumet (director/producer/screenwriter)
Sue Mengers (talent agent)
Steve Jobs (executive)
George Kuchar (experimental filmmaker)
Hal Kanter (writer/director)
Theadora van Runkle (costume designer)
Tim Hetherington (documentarian)
Gene Cantamessa (sound)
Gary Winick (director/producer)
Bill Varney (sound mixer)
Jackie Cooper
Gilbert Cates (director/producer)
Richard Leacock (documentarian)
James M. Roberts (Academy executive director)
Marion Doughtery (casting director)
Norman Corwin (writer/producer)
Paul John Haggar (post production executive)
Joseph Farrell (marketing research)
Ben Gazzara
Elizabeth Taylor

Note that there were only nine actors listed while the rest of the 39 were people who worked behind the camera. Also, there was not nearly enough video footage used during this montage – perhaps because so many of these were not on-screen, recognizable faces.

This year’s was a pretty complete record but sometimes actors or writers get left off the Academy obit reel. There were more than a few character actors left off, many of whom were in Oscar nominated movies.

Screenwriter Arthur Laurents is one that should have been listed. He wrote film scripts including Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ (1948), ‘The Way We Were’ (1973) and ‘The Turning Point’ (1977). One wonders if the stigma of being blacklisted still lingers and kept his name off? Laurents was blacklisted and labeled a communist when one of his plays was reviewed in the Daily Worker, a communist newspaper. Laurents spend 3 months trying to clear his name – since he was not and never had been – a communist but was never able to do so since the blacklisting stopped before he was cleared.

Harry Morgan was more known for his television roles in MASH and Dragnet but he made over 100 films, many of which were Westerns or Disney family movies. He also he did several films of note. Significant roles include ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ (1943);’High Noon’ (1952); ‘The Glenn Miller Story ‘(1954) and ‘Inherit the Wind’ (1960). He even played Ulysses S. Grant in ‘How the West Was Won’ (1962).

The 1969 film, ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ was nominated and won several Academy awards… so shouldn’t the lead male actor of that film get noticed? Michael Sarrazin’s starring turn opposite Jane Fonda in that movie made it memorable. Sarrazin also played in other films including ‘The Flim-Flam Man’ (1967) with George C. Scott; ‘For Pete’s Sake’ (1974), and the ‘The Reincarnation of Peter Proud’ (1975).

Michael Gough started out in horror films like ‘Dracula’ (1958), and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (1962) most will remember him from his films with Tim Burton. They worked together on 1999’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and 2005’s ‘Corpse Bride’ and then again in 2010’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Gough’s most recognizable role is that of Alfred Pennysworth the butler of Batman/ Bruce Wayne in the films from the 80’s and 90’s.

John Boorman’s 1981 epic, ‘Excalibur’, was one of my favorite movies about King Arthur. I was captivated by the beauty and the acting. The standout character was that of the wizard Merlin, played by the late Nicol Williamson. His portrayal was magical in every way. Williamson was also one of the most well-received Sherlock Holmes when he played the character 1976’s ‘The Seven-Per-Cent Solution’. This film gained two Oscar nominations. Other roles include Williamson as Little John in the 1976 Richard Lester film ‘Robin and Marian’ and the dual roles of Dr. Worley/The Nome King in ‘Return To Oz’ (1985).

One of the biggest disappoints with the Academy this year was the exclusion of Charles Napier, who was one of the most easily recognizable character actors in Hollywood. He has been in several Oscar winning films including ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Philadelphia’. Other films include ’Swing Shift’ (1984); ‘Something Wild’ (1986); ‘Married to the Mob’ (1988); ‘The Grifters ‘(1990) and many more. Napier will be most remember as the lead singer of ‘The Good Ole Boys’ band in in ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) or as Rambo’s commanding officer in ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II‘(1985).

Another year, another list and another listing of luminaries whose lights will be missed.

Sexy star of “Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill” Tura Satana

I recently watched “Grindhouse”, a film by Quentin Tarrantino and Robert Rodriguez, with a friend of mine who bought it on blu-ray. The film is a salute to the low-budget B-movies of the 60’s and 70’s. It has all the grainy video, bad edits, video lines running through, and poor dialogue that made these cheaply made films worth watching. There is a comic faction built into them for those of us with a twisted sense humor. One wonders why we were watching it on blu-ray and not VHS tape.

One of the actress in the film, Rose McGowan, becomes this strong female character, who does not like to be pushed around. She is the tough chick (a real bad ass). This is a character we have seen played before. One of my favorite no-nonsense female characters is in the Russ Meyer’s 1965 film “Faster Pusscat, Kill, Kill.” The film features gratuitous violence, sexuality, provocative gender roles, and campy dialogue. It is not a film for everyone, but is worth watching for the acting of actress, Tura Satana, who plays the leader of a gang of thrill-seeking go-go dancers.

The Japanese born Tura Satana took her Final Taxi this week at the age of 72 in Reno Nevada.

In “Faster Pusscat, Kill, Kill” Tura played “Varla” a very aggressive and sexual female character, like something out of a comic book. In the film she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes. She asked the director to do this because of all the martial art training she had taken as a child. She learned aikido and karate, after being sexually attacked. In an interview in with Psychotronic Video Magazine, she said that she later tracked and exacted vengeance on each of her attackers.

After being “discovered” by silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, she first worked in the movies with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine in 1963’s “Irma La Douce”. In the musical she played one of the Parisian prostitutes friend of the main character. That same year she played a dancer in “Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?” with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. Other films include the James Bond parody “Our Man Flint” (1966) with James Coburn, “The Astro-Zombies” (1968), “The Doll Squad” (1974) and “Mark of the Astro-Zombies” (2002).

In TV Tura appeared in “Burke’s Law”, “The Greatest Show On Earth”, “Hawaiian Eye”, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”.

In her personal life Tura Satana at one time dated “the King of Rock and Roll'” Elvis Presley, but turned down his marriage proposal but she kept the ring. She also had a relationship with Frank Sinatra.

Tura Satana’s exotic looks, buxom frame and no-nonsense attitude paved the way for other actresses and can be seen in pop-cultural artifacts ranging from “Xena, Warrior Princess” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”

Dead Pet Bunny Stolen

Muggers snatched an Austrian woman’s handbag unaware that it contained nothing but a dead rabbit.

The two thieves struck as Hilda Morgenstein, 42, was about to catch a train at Baden to the countryside with her daughter to bury the pet. The joke will be on the robbers once they find out that their loot contains nothing but a hare carcass.

Morgenstein said: “They saved us the trip – I told my daughter they were angels and were taking bunny to a better place.”

Police are still searching for the pair and the remains of the rabbit.

I wonder what the black market price is for a dead bunny is?

Ramones manager – Linda Stein

Back in the late 70’s I was invited by a friend to a concert at Brother’s Music Hall.  a nightclub in Birmingham. The band playing was The Ramones, who I had not heard of, but it was a night that would change my life. My musical taste would defiantly be influenced by one show.

I had been to several concerts before but this was the first one that I was a participant. There was no sitting down in chairs. This was an event. The music was loud and everyone was pleasant and moved to the music as one. (This was years before slam dancing started at punk shows.) I danced with the entire crowd there.

The Ramones were an American rock band often regarded as the first punk rock group. It was  their appearance in 1976 that  galvanized the beginning UK punk rock scene, inspiring future punk stars, including members of The Clash, The Damned, and the Sex Pistols.

It was a few months after that tour that they played Birmingham. On tour with them was their manger at the time, Linda Stein.  She has taken her Final Taxi at age 62.

Linda Stein, former manager of US punk band the Ramones and realtor to New York’s A-list celebrities has taken her Final Taxi.

Stein, a former teacher, was credited with jumpstarting the careers of the Ramones, The Pretenders ,Talking Heads and Madonna to stardom. She was a fixture in clubs from Studio 54 to the Mudd Club and later a reliable voice in gossip columns, aided by her quick wit and fanciful way with a four-letter word.

In the 1990s, Stein left band management and became a “real estate agent to the stars”. She landed mega-million-dollar apartments for Madonna, Sting, Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Steven Spielberg and Elton John.

According to her friend, author Steven Gaines, Stein inspired two movie characters: the real estate agent (played by Sylvia Miles) who sells a high-rise apartment to Charlie Sheen’s character in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and a predatory record executive in the 1998 movie.

She was just getting over breast cancer treatments when she was found murdered in her New York apartment.

Long-time friend Elton John said in a statement: “I’m absolutely shocked and upset. She’s been a friend for over 37 years and will be greatly missed, She did so much for breast cancer and was a huge supporter of my AIDS foundation.”

HALLOWEEN PODCAST: Bloodthirty Killer and Vampire- Gilles de Rays

Halloween Horror Stories #6- Download Audio MP3

One of history’s most bizarre, twisted and blood thirsty murderers, Gilles de Rays tortured, raped and killed almost 600 people, mostly children. He was a war hero, an adventurer, an aristocrat and a vampire, drinking the blood of his victims.
His true story ends this years week of true horror on this internet radio show, the Final Taxi.

Happy Halloween!!

Forced Sex, Torture & Murder- Why Has The News Missed This Story?

I have not been able to blog for the Final Taxi the last week because I was out of town doing work. This was roadie-type work with heavy lifting and moving speaker and equipment around.

One of the people who helped me was a nice girl called Allison. She is a student at University of Tennessee in Knoxville. We talked about all kinds of things while setting up. I told her about the ‘Taxi’ and she asked if in my reading obits if I had read about a friend of hers, Channon Christian. I had not. She asked if we could sit down and she told me a tale of horror.

First, what I am going to reveal to you is real. It took place in a southern city in United States of America. Second, if you are weak in the stomach or are shocked easily do not read anymore – I will be graphic——-

—-

Allison had been friends with Channon Christian for a while. They had the same classes in sociology. They are linked together in Facebook and also double dated with Channon’s boyfriend Christopher and another friend. During Christmas of 2006 they had swapped out presents. They shared other friends who were of several different races.

On a Saturday night in January, 21-year-old Channon Christian, and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Hugh Christopher NewsomChannon Christian and Christopher Newsom were on a normal date when they were carjacked in Knoxville by three thugs. For some reason their attackers were not satisfied with the Toyota 4-Runner that they commandeered at gunpoint.
They kidnapped the two students and drove them to some apartments that they rented in a shady side of Knoxville.

There the 3 kidnapper were joined by another man and a woman.

It is not known what happened next, but according to police records, Channon was raped in front of her boyfriend by the four men, vaginally, anally and orally. She was torn in several places. The woman held her face to make her watch as the men then raped Christopher. They then took a knife to his penis and shot him to death, wrapped him in bedding, soaked him in gasoline and set him on fire.

Channon was then made to perform oral sex on all men and almost chocked on the semen she was made to shallow.

Sometime during this the ends of her breasts were cut off or bitten off.

Before she died, her murderers poured a household cleaner down her throat, apparently in an effort to kill the DNA they had placed there. She was left to die, either from the bleeding caused “by the tearing,” or from asphyxiation.

Christopher’s body was found by a Knoxville railroad yard wrapped in a bed comforter while Channon’s was found in the back of the apartments, in five dark plastic bags.

Allison was in tears as she finished this story. I asked her had these animals been caught.

She said they were but only four will go to trial. Letalvis Cobbins, Vanessa Coleman, George Coleman and Lemaricus Davidson all face more than 40 charges, including first degree murder, kidnapping and rape.

Now here is the question- why the hell have we not heard about this unimaginable crime?

The news is full of Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, or the latest star of the moment in trouble. Why would the national media treat America to full-immersion coverage of the Duke rape case or a missing Natalee Holloway while burying this horrible story?

The idea floating around is that it is race. Channon and Christopher were white while the attackers were black.

To even broach the topic of inner city crime is almost a social taboo, rather like discussing the bride’s old boyfriends at a wedding reception.

“There is a discomfort level [in the national media] with stories that have black assailants and white victims,” said Michelle Malkin, a newspaper columnist and TV commentator, on her Web site. “If it doesn’t fit some sort of predetermined narrative of how we view taboo subjects like race and crime, there’s a disinclination to cover it.”

Country-music star Charlie Daniels, who lives 150 miles from Knoxville, contrasted scant coverage of the Christian-Newsom murders with the national media frenzy that erupted last year when a black woman accused three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team of raping her at a party. The white players were cleared in April after the accuser changed her story several times and no evidence corroborated a crime.

“If this [Knoxville case] had been white on black crime, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and their ilk would have descended on Knoxville like a swarm of angry bees,” Daniels wrote on his Web site.

This was a hate crime! Why are we not burning the name of Channon Christian into the national consciousness? Is it because we are not certain that her murderers used racial slurs during the commission of their crime? Why are reporters not camped out at the Knoxville court house with “Breaking News” reports every hour?

In a TV interview, Channon’s parents believe this was a crime of opportunity and that skin color wasn’t a factor. “We’re not racial people. That’s not what my daughter was about. She loved everybody she met,” Deena Christian said. As her parents try to move forward, they cling tightly to memories of Channon, describing her as a young girl majoring in sociology and hoping to help underprivileged kids.

Allison said they had planned to help out at a homeless shelter during the summer.

Why are we ignoring this terrible crime? Next time you see Paris Hilton or Al Sharpton on your TV this week, think about Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. That is the real news that should be covered.