‘Private Benjamin’ Drill Captain, Eileen Brennan, dies

In 1978 just as actor Peter Falk was leaving his most famous role – that of Lt. Columbo – he took a part in a comedy called “The Cheap Detective.”  I was excited about seeing Falk in a different role than I had seen him in before.  I laughed at Falk throughout the film, but one actress kept stealing my attention. She was playing the role of Betty DeBoop, who  I had seen only a few months earlier in a film called “FM.”  In it she played a sexy voiced DJ named ‘Mutha’. This actress was Eileen Brennan.

Eileen Brennan, 80, has taken her Final Taxi.

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Eileen Brennan was best known for her supporting role as tough-talking drill captain Doreen Lewis in the film ” Pvt. Benjamin”

The actress played memorable roles as the brothel madam in “The Sting”, as a café waitress in “The Last Picture Show” and in “Scarecrow” alongside Gene Hackman and Al Pacino.

Brennan scored an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in 1980’s “Private Benjamin,” and won both an Emmy and Golden Globe for the role in the subsequent TV series adaptation in the early 1980s. She also had a memorable turn as Tess Skeffington, the blonde sidekick to Peter Falk’s San Francisco gumshoe Sam Diamond, in the all-star Agatha Christie spoof “Murder by Death”.

Other films include “Stella,” “Texasville” and “Jeepers Creepers” along with TV appearances in the likes of “Will and Grace,” “7th Heaven,” “E.R.,” and “Blossom”.

I will always remember Brennan for her brilliant work as Mrs. Peacock in one of my favorite films: 1985’s cult comedy classic “Clue”.

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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.

Invite an axe-murderer into your home this Christmas

It has been a week since Halloween and my podcasts of ‘ true stories of horror ‘ went over well this year it seems. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when I read a news story this morning. It would fit in my true horror tales and also the death history stories I tell.

It seems the German city of Hanover is getting slammed for featuring an axe wielding serial killer on a children’s Christmas advent calendar. Tourism officials have defended the move by saying mass murderer Fritz Haarmann was part of the German city of Hanover’s history.

Haarmann killed 24 young men, chopped up their corpses and dumped their remains in the local river Leine. He appears on the Advent calendar hiding behind a tree on the river bank.

Haarmann stalked Hanover more than 80 years ago and his victims were aged between 13 and 20. Rumors had it that he would then peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as black market pork. His accomplice, Hans Grans, sold the clothing of his victims. Haarmann was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1925.

The calendar is already on sale at tourism offices and shows children singing Xmas carols and laughing as Santa hands out Xmas gifts – and the Star of Bethlehem twinkles over the rooftops.

But over the first door of the calendar, a trilby wearing man peeks out from behind a tree with a meat cleaver in his left hand.

Mass murder stalk vitims on Christmas calender.
Head of the Hanover tourism board, Hans-Christian Nolte, has defended the calendar, saying: “He is part of our city’s history. Even on guided tours the serial killer’s story is told.”

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——-

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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.