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:


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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 .


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.


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.

Peter Graves: Goodbye Mr. Phelps

On our first date I took my wife to see the movie “Airplane.” We were embarrassed by the fact that we were laughing so hard and hardly knew one another. It was a great first date because we gained an understanding of each other’s sense of humor. It has helped us through 29 years of marriage.

“Airplane!” is on so many people list of funniest movies of all time. It is always in the top ten lists and even ranked at number two in the British 50 Greatest Comedy Films poll on Channel 4. (Monty Python’s The Life of Brian was the first place spot for that poll.) This was due to the great cast of which many were not known for their comedic roles. This included Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barbara Billingsley and Peter Graves.

It is Peter Graves who took his Final Taxi at the age of 83.

In Airplane Graves played the part of the pilot of the airplane, Captain Clarence Oveur. There were many funny lines about the character’s last name but the funniest for me was when a boy asked to visit the cockpit. ( Yes, this is pre-9-11.) Graves asks the boys questions like “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” “ Have you ever seen a grown man naked?” or “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” The humor came from the deadpan seriousness that Graves delivered. What also blew me away was this was coming from a man who I grew up watch on the TV show “Mission Impossible.”

Graves played the government secret agent Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force from 1967 to 1973 and then reprised the role in 1988-1990. The show started during the “spy” craze started by the James Bond movies. Graves lead this super-secret government organization that preformed dangerous undercover assignments given to him by audio tape that self-destructed once he heard the message. This was my father’s favorite show to watch so I got to watch Graves every week.

I also remember watching old westerns with Peter Graves in them. These were movies like “The Yellow Tomahawk” from 1954 and “Texas Across the River” from 1966 but his first movie was with Rory Calhoun in 1950’s “Rogue River.” The western part really hit home for me when I found out Grave’s real name is Peter Aurness and that he has a brother named James Aurness. This is the man who played Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years in the TV show “Gunsmoke. “

In later years Peter Graves was host on A&E TV’s “Biography” program. He narrated the lives of many of the rich and famous. He also in one of the funniest commercials from Geico insurance where he helps a “real Geico customer” narrating her story. In it he tells about putting on tangerine lip gloss and how he was one “lucky woman.”

The Black Carpet of the 2010 Academy Awards

Every year in my household my family gathers together and watches the Academy Awards. This year was no different. We watched the walk down the red carpet on various channels and comment on the clothes or how different an actor looks this year. We await to see who the best actor or actress is and see what film is best picture this year. ( I was surprised by “The Hurt Locker” as we were counting on “Up In The Air.”)

My favorite part is when the Academy salutes those that we lost this past year. We call it those who have walked down the ‘black carpet.” This year it was split in two with a special memorial to director and writer John Hughes. It was a chance to see many of the films he brought to us and the young actors who he made famous.

The second part was the normal obituary reel. This was presented by Demi Moore as James Taylor sang the Beatles song ‘ In My Life.’

The 2010 list was:

Patrick Swayze
Maurice Jarre
Monte Hale (actor)
Jean Simmons
Tullio Pinelli (writer)
Eric Rohmer (director)
Ken Annakin (director)
David Carradine
Gareth Wigan (executive)
Daniel Melnick (producer)
Howard Zief (director)
Dom DeLuise
Army Archerd
Ron Silver
Brittany Murphy
Lou Jacobi
Simon Channing-Williams (producer)
Betsy Blair
Joseph Wiseman
Jack Cardiff (cinematographer)
Kathryn Grayson
Arthur Canton (public relations)
Nat Boxer (sound)
Millard Kaufman (writer)
Roy E. Disney (executive)
Larry Gelbart
Horton Foote
Robert Woodruff Anderson (writer)
Budd Schulberg
Michael Jackson
Natasha Richardson
Jennifer Jones
David Brown (producer)
Karl Malden

Every year I watch there is a few that I cannot believe the Academy left off. This year is no different. First missing is Henry Gibson. Sure he may have been in films like “The Blues Brothers’ or “The Burbs,” but the Academy should remember him for his role in Robert Altman’s “Nashville.”

Also missing was Gene Barry who may have made a name for himself in TV with ‘Bat Masterson’ or ‘Burke’s Law’ but he did appear in films. Most notable in both version of “War Of The Worlds.”

I understand not using Farrah Fawcett or Beatrice Arthur since they are more known for their TV roles but missing Zelda Rubenstein, who gave such a memorable character as the psychic in ‘Poltergeist,’ is such a shame.

One name that should have been on that list is Dan O’Bannon. O’Bannon was a director and actor but he will be more known for his screen writing skills. For without him we would not have had “Blue Thunder,” “Dark Star,” “Total Recall,” or any of the “Alien” movies. “Avatar” is this year’s biggest grossing movie and it would be missing its actress, Sigourney Weaver, if Dan O’Bannon had not written his screenplay that launched her career.

A Hotel People Are Dying To Get Into

For my wedding anniversary I took my wife to a quaint little place in North Alabama called the Secret. It has four cottages that are themed based. They had a tree house, a Western jail, a log cabin and a nautical theme cottage. We choice the naval one.

Themed cabins and hotels are popping up all over the place. Most are built and decorated around a unifying theme. These hotels are great fun for families and for those travelers seeking a unique, action-packed vacation. A large number of the larger theme hotels are located in resort cities such as Orlando, Florida and Atlantic City, New Jersey, but they can also be found elsewhere in the United States and all over the world.

Many popular theme hotels are built around casinos. Las Vegas, Nevada has hotels that has themes ranging in motif from Egyptian tomb to New York skyline to pirates’ cove. For many Vegas tourists, theme hotels are a necessary part of the experience.

Mausoleum InnNow a Chinese woman is getting into the theme lodging business in and unusual way. Jiao Meige has opened a mausoleum-themed inn to let people experience the feeling of death.

She set up the Mausoleum Inn in a house in Lishui town of the Jiangsu province.

The building is shaped like a Chinese mausoleum, and the beds are in the shapes of coffins.

“I rented this piece of land to put a farm there, but because there are many old graves in the field, no one wants to work here,” she said.
Jiao says the idea for the Mausoleum Inn came to her in a flash.

“Since there are so many graves, why don’t I give people a chance to experience death?” she asked.

“There are no services at night, and the guest can go nowhere, since outside is just a vast graveyard.”
Jiao says no residents with heart problems will be accepted at the Mausoleum Inn, and mental patients must be accompanied by healthy people.

I wonder if there is a Final Taxi there for you to take for a ride into the town?

Mom Now Allowed To Put Spongebob On Sons’ Gravestone

After a year of waiting, the mother of Camren and Damen Rager will be able to have an image of SpongeBob SquarePants carved at her sons’ gravesite.

Tammy Rager received one-time permission from Viacom International, which owns the copyright, to use the image. It took a year of unanswered e-mails and phone calls, an article in the Patriot-News of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and some help from Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter.

Camren, 6, and Damen, 2, are buried at Cumberland Valley Memorial Gardens in South Middleton Township, Pennsylvania. The children of Tammy and Randy Rager died in a fire in their Middlesex Township home last year.

The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants was a favorite of the two. Their bedroom was full of SpongeBob toys, pictures and other items.

On July 30, 2006, SpongeBob SquarePants was the last program they watched. Their mother had let them stay up past their normal bedtime to watch the show and then put the boys to bed.

That night, a fire started in the family’s second-floor clothes dryer. The boys died when they were trapped in their bedroom by heat and smoke. “My boys died on SpongeBob sheets,” Tammy Rager said.

The Ragers and their daughter Kailyn, now 2, and Randy Rager son, Josh Taormina, now 18, escaped from the fire. But due to intense flames, heat and smoke, they could not rescue Camren and Damen.

Rager has permission to use the image on the gravestone, Nickelodeon spokeswoman Joanna Roses confirmed Sunday. “We just learned about this last week, roundabout through a third party,” she told the Patriot-News. “We want to express our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Rager and the family.”

Last week, Specter got in touch with Nickelodeon on behalf of Rager. The mother said that a member of Specter’s staff called her Friday night to tell her that she could use the image. But on Sunday afternoon, Rager said that she still hasn’t heard personally from network representatives.

“I’m happy with the final result, but I’m not happy about how Nickelodeon handled the situation. My whole complaint was that they weren’t considerate enough to respond to me,” she said. “It still seems cold and heartless.”

There is a temporary marker at the gravesite in Cumberland Valley Memorial Gardens. Cemetery administator Ginnie Weller said that Nickelodeon is sending authorization to use the SpongeBob image to the company that will make the permanent bronze marker.

“It will probably be early next year before the marker is in place on the boys’ grave. It takes five to six weeks to get a custom marker made,” Weller said.

The cemetery wrote to Viacom five times, telling the story of the fire and how the boys loved the TV show.

According to Weller, the Nickelodeon representative who phoned her was unable to explain why numerous messages that she and Rager left with the company went unanswered.

Viacom did not respond to several phone calls and e-mail messages left by the Patriot-News over several days requesting comment.

The Final Taxi Visits A Graveyard Of The Stars- Part 3

On this my last blog on the Final Taxi’s visit to Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angles I want to start with one of the reasons I went to that cemetery. One of my favorite child actresses is there. She didn’t have many roles but everyone knows who she is. Her famous catch phase is “They’re he-eere!” and is said in front of a TV set at the start of the movie Poltergeist. Her name was Heather O’Rourke and she died just as she turned 12.
Heather O'Rourke and Ron Nastie

Heather was discovered at the age of five by Steven Spielberg while having lunch at the MGM Studios Commissary with her mother. Spielberg, who was preparing to film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, was also looking for a child to play the role of Carol-Anne Freeling in his upcoming production of Poltergeist and when he approached Heather inquiring if she had any acting experience, she advised him that she was not allowed to talk to strangers. Despite her initial shyness, an interview soon followed and she was cast in the part.poltergeist

Poltergeist was released in June 1982, and Heather’s line, “They’re he-eere!” entered American pop culture. Her success in Poltergeist immediately led to television work, and in 1982–83 she was a regular on the sitcom Happy Days, playing the daughter of Fonzie’s girlfriend. She played that role for 12 episodes. In between Heather’s numerous television appearances including a recurring role on Webster and Still the Beaver, Poltergeist II was filmed and released in 1986 and once again, she delivered another pop culture phrase, “They’re ba-aaack!”. It was shortly before pre-production of “Poltergeist III” in 1987 that she began to show the first signs of the illnesses that would contribute to her untimely death at age 12 less than a year later.
She died Feb. 1st, 1988, after had developed an intestinal obstruction that had eventually caused part of her small intestine to burst. What shocks me the most is that she would be 32 this year if she was still alive. This life was cut short way too early.

DunneIn the movie Poltergeist, Carol-Anne had an older sister Dana. The character would not be in any of the sequels mainly because the actress who played her was murdered just after the release of the film. Dominique Dunne played that role perfectly. Dunne is the sister of actor and director Griffin Dunne. Dunne’s first role was in the 1979 made for TV movie “Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker”. She was also in episodes of 80’s TV shows such as Family, Hart to Hart and Fame. After three years, she finally received her big break with a starring role in the Steven Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed movie Poltergeist. After Poltergeist she appeared in the final season premiere of “CHiPs” and the 1982 TV movie The Shadow Riders with Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott. In the Fall of 1981, after completing work in Poltergeist, Dunne met and later moved in with chef John Thomas Sweeney after a heated argument after a breakup Sweeney strangled Dunne in the driveway of her home after she refused to reconcile with him. She died at the age of 22 and her body is very close to her on screen sister from Poltergeist.

TrumanAlso almost two crypts down from Heather O’Rourke is famous writer Truman Capote. Capaote was an American writer whose stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965), which he labeled a “non-fiction novel.” At least 20 films and TV dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories and screenplays. The recent 2005 film Capote received five Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance earned him many awards, including a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award and the 2006 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

tormeImmediately in front of Capote and O’Rourke is famous singer Melvin Tormé. Nicknamed The Velvet Fog he is best known as one of the great male jazz singers. He was also a jazz composer and arranger, a drummer, an actor in radio, film, and television, and the author of five books. He composed the music for the classic holiday song “The Christmas Song”. In 1943, Tormé made his movie debut in Frank Sinatra’s first film, the musical Higher and Higher. He went on to sing and act in a number of films and television episodes throughout his career, even hosting his own television show in 1951–52. His appearance in the 1947 film musical Good News made him a teen idol for a few years. He made regular appearances on the1980s TV comedy Night Court. In February 1999, Tormé was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.


One grave not to be missed is that of TV and movie legend, Don Knotts. Knotts is best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, and as landlord Ralph Furley on the television sitcom Three’s Company in the 1980s. Don Knotts graveAs a kid I remember him in a lot of movies where he and Tim Conway teamed up. What a great pair!
In 1958, Knotts appeared in the movie No Time for Sergeants alongside Andy Griffith. The movie began a professional and personal relationship between Knotts and Griffith that would last for decades. In 1960, when Griffith was offered the opportunity to headline in his own television sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), Knotts took the role of Barney Fife, the deputy and cousin of Sheriff Andy Taylor. Knotts’ five seasons portraying the deputy on the popular show would earn him five Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Drama, even considering it was a comedy. Knotts also made several films including The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), The Love God? (1969) and How to Frame a Figg (1971). In 1998, Knotts had a small but pivotal role as the mysterious TV repairman in Pleasantville. Also in 1998 his home town of Morgantown, West Virginia, changed the name of the street (US 119, US 73) to “Don Knotts Boulevard” on “Don Knotts Day.” I am surprised that he is here and not buried in his hometown, but he will always be loved and remembered.

There are so many famous stars buried here I can not name them all in this column. There are sites that have lists and even some of those are not complete for many of the graves are not marked and you will look right over places where George C. Scott, Roy Orbison or Frank Zappa are buried. We will not even talk about those who have been cremated here including Bewitched’s Elizabeth Montgomery, Singer Janice Joplin, My Favorite Martian‘s Ray Walston and one of my favorite bizarre actress Edith Massey. (Massey was in several early John Water’s films.)

Looking back I am still contacting actors together in movies they have played in together. Many of them played in TV or movie roles with the other actors that are buried here. It makes me go back to my “It’s A Wonderful Life” philosophy – One live does have an affect on others. Look around you. You never know if the person down the road is someone who is connected to you in some way that you do not know about. Treat each other kindly.

Lastly I did get to go to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and see the site where one of my favorite comedic actors placed his hands in the sidewalk- Peter Sellers. Hmmm — If I ever get to London I must visit Golders Green where his ashes are.

Peter Sellers hands

The Final Taxi Visits A GraveYard Of The Stars- Part 1

The Final Taxi took a wonderful trip to Ontario, California over the weekend to be at the Podcaster and New Media Expo. I met some new friends and fans of the Final Taxi blog and podcast. PME ended on Sunday so I talked my travel companion into about an hour drive into Los Angeles. She wanted to go to Hollywood and see the Walk of Fame and we both wanted to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and see the stars hand and footprints in the sidewalk. Pierce Bros sign

I asked if we could make a detour. I want to go to a cemetery. Not just any cemetery but Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. It is the cemetery of the stars. It didn’t take to much pushing and she knew that it would mean a lot to the writer of a blog on recently dead celebrities.

We took I-10 to Wilshire Blvd. and went up two blocks to Glendon. After turning right and going about two blocks it dead ended and we thought we were lost but on going back we saw what looked like an alley between the overshadowing buildings. There was a small iron gate with the Pierce Brothers Memorial Park sign on it. Suddenly we were in a small park with beautiful trees and flowers. It was like finding a small oasis in the middle of the city.

Pierce Brothers is a small cemetery which is hidden between office buildings on one side, and housing on the other. It is rather small, about 2 acres in size, but don’t let that fool you. There are many plot, mausoleums, and memorial plaques inside that small area. Even as I write this blog I am still finding out about people who are buried there.

After we parked I got out of the car and took a look around before starting to find many of my favorite stars. I saw a member of the staff and started asking questions. First if I could talk to them for a podcast. The lady refused and said “We understand the curiosity of the public, but our families come first.” She said all she could do was tell me that the cemetery was 2 and a half acres and established in 1903. She continued “We don’t allow tour groups to come in, no guide yelling ‘so and so is buried here; so and so is buried there.’ We ask people to show respect.”

The gentleman with her told me that they were a family cemetery first and they just happened to have a few famous people here. That is all I could get out of them. Except when I asked who was visited here the most.

Both pointed me to a wall in the far corner of the yard.

There was a tomb with flower beside it and at it’s feet. Also people had put several coin around the marker as a kind of payment for what is actress has meant to them.

This was the grave of Marilyn Monroe.
Marylyn Manroe - Ron Nastie

I was surprised at first that she did not have her birth name of Norma Jeane Mortenson on the marker.

Marilyn Monroe was a Golden Globe award winning American actress, model and sex symbol. She was known for her comedic skills and screen presence and became one of the most popular movie stars of the 1950s and early 1960s. At the later stages of her career, she worked towards serious roles with a measure of success. One of my favorite films with her is “Some Like It Hot.”

“Some Like It Hot” tells the story of two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), who are on the run from a Chicago gang after witnessing the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929. They decide to leave town, but the only out-of-town job they can find is in an all-girl band. The two disguise themselves as women and call themselves Josephine and Geraldine They both fall for “Sugar Kane” Kowalczyk (Marylyn Monroe), the band’s sexy Polish-American vocalist and ukulele player, and fight for her affection while maintaining their disguises.
Jack Lemmon IN

As I walked through this graveyard of legends, I came upon one of the other actors in the movie, Jack Lemmon.

I have always been a big Jack Lemmon fan. I think the third time I ever went to a movie theater and my sister, Deb, took me to see a double feature of “Barefoot In The Park,” and “The Odd Couple.” They brought them back to the movies since both were TV shows at the time and it was good publicity for both film and TV.

Jack Lemmon played Felix opposite Matthew Matthau as Oscar in “The Odd Couple.”

Lemmon played in some great films, including The Apartment, Days of Wine and Roses, Irma La Douce, The Great Race, The Odd Couple, The Out-of-Towners, The China Syndrome, Under The YumYum Tree, and Mass Appeal to name a few.

What was really funny to me is in typical Jack Lemmon wit, his gravestone simply reads ‘Jack Lemmon — in’. After Matthau’s death in 2000, Lemmon appeared with friends and relatives of the actor on a Larry King Live show in tribute. A year later, many of the same people appeared on the show again to pay tribute to Lemmon.

Speaking of Mr. Matthau, his grave is right down from Lemmon’s.

The two starred together not only in The Odd Couple but in The Fortune Cookie, The Front Page, and Buddy Buddy.Matthau grave Additionally, both had small parts in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film, JFK. In 1993, the duo teamed up again to star in Grumpy Old Men. The film was a surprise hit, earning the two actors a new generation of young fans. During the rest of the decade, they would go on to star together in Out to Sea, Grumpier Old Men and the widely-panned The Odd Couple II.

I would put Walter Matthau in my top favorite actors of all time. Even the badly made movies were good because Matthau was in it.
In 1955 he made his motion picture debut as a whip-wielding bad guy in The Kentuckian opposite Burt Lancaster ( who so happens to be buried in a grave opposite from him.) Some of my favorite Matthau movies The Sunshine Boys, House Calls, Little Miss Marker, Hopscotch, I Ought to Be in Pictures, The Couch Trip, Dennis the Menace, I.Q., Kotch ,and Pete N Tille. There was a great on screen spark between Glenda Jackson and Matthau in Hopscotch and House Calls. Netflix them is you have missed them. One role of Matthau’s that should not be forgotten is in 1976’s The Bad News Bears where he played the coach Morris Buttermaker. The role spun into two sequels and TV show and a re-make.

Bily Wilder
As I go back to the movie Some Like It Hot, the director and writer of that movie was Billy Wilder. Wilder was a journalist, screenwriter, film director, and producer whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age. It is fitting that he is buried in a grave between Lemmon and Matthau. His grave says ” I’m A Writer, But Then Nobody’s Perfect.”

Next to Wilder is someone from the history of television, Carroll O’Connor, most famous for his portrayal of the character Archie Bunker in the television sitcoms All in the FamilyArchie Bunker (1971-1979) and Archie Bunker’s Place (1979-1983). Archie was a reactionary, bigoted, blue-collar worker and family man. All in the Family got many of its laughs by playing on Archie’s bigotry, although the dynamic tension between Archie and his left-wing son-in-law, Michael “Meathead” Stivic (Rob Reiner), provided an ongoing political and social sounding board for a variety of topics.

O’Connor later starred in the television series In the Heat of the Night as Police Chief Bill Gillespie from 1988 to 1994.

Another TV star I stumbled upon was Eva Gabor the Hungarian-born American actress, best known for the long running TV show Green Acres. In it she portrayed Lisa Douglas, the New York wife of Oliver Wendell Douglas played by Eddie Albert who left New York City to live on a farm. Eva GaborEva did several films but was most notable in voice-over work for Disney movies, providing the European-accented voices of Duchess in The Aristocats, Miss Bianca in The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, and the Queen of Time in the Sanrio film, Nutcracker Fantasy.

Not far from Eva is her co-star of Green Arces Eddie Albert. Albert was nominated for Oscars in 1954 for his performance in Roman Holiday and in 1973 for The Heartbreak Kid. In an acting career that spanned nearly seven decades, two of his better known television roles were Oliver Wendell Douglas on the popular 1960s sitcom, Green Acres, and Frank MacBride on the popular 1970s crime drama, Switch. He also had a recurring role as Carlton Travis on Falcon Crest, opposite Jane Wyman. He had worked with her before in1938, when he made his feature film debut in the Hollywood version of Brother Rat with Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. He played the role of cadet “Bing” Edwards. One of the first movies I saw him in was 1974’s The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. (That was a popular movie here in the South during the days of Alabama’s Paul ‘Bear” Bryant.) In Oklahoma! (1955), he played a womanizing peddler, and in Who’s Got the Action? (1962), he portrayed a lawyer helping his partner (Dean Martin) cope with a gambling addiction.

dino's graveSpeaking of Dean Martin, he is here too. Martin was an Italian American singer, film actor, and comedian. He was one of the most famous music artists in the 1950s and 1960s. His hit singles included the songs “Memories Are Made Of This”, “That’s Amore”, “Everybody Loves Somebody”, “Mambo Italiano”, “Sway”, “Volare” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”. But many of us remember him as part of the Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin Comedy duo. They started in radio but were in several films together. Martin was acclaimed for his solo performance as Dude in Rio Bravo (1959), directed by Howard Hawks and also starring John Wayne and singer Ricky Nelson. He teamed up again with Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965). Martin played a nightmare variation of his own smoothly womanizing persona as Vegas singer “Dino” in Billy Wilder’s adult comedy Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) with Kim Novak, and he was never above poking sly fun at his image in films such as the Matt Helm spy spoofs of the 1960s. Those are a hoot if you have never seen them and want a good comedy making fun of James Bond – type spies. I remember Dean Martin’s TV show. My mother never wanted to watch them because of the scantly clad women and Martin always drinking.
Martin joined Frank Sinatra, along with friends Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis, Jr. to form the legendary Rat Pack.

I have not even begun to touch on other celebrities in Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. More pictures and stories in my next blog… Stay tuned