Podcast Junky Spotlights the Final Taxi!

One of my favorite podcast to listen to is the Podcast Junky  show. Megan, the host, asks the question “what are you listening to?”  She talks to people who will tell her about their podcasts and of those they are listening to as well.

This week she review The Final Taxi podcast.

Give her a listen and subscribe on iTunes or go to her website : http://www.podcastjunky.com

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The Final Taxi Visits A GraveYard Of The Stars- Part 2

As I said in last weeks blog I took a trip to Ontario, California to the Podcaster and New Media Expo. We were able to go to Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery that Sunday.

Dangerfield and Ron Nastie

As I drove into the small 2 acre park I was taken by it beauty. I parked the car and got out looking at the huge trees and adoring plants. As I looked down I noticed I was walking on someone grave. It was Rodney Dangerfield. I had a voice in my head proclaim “ ..HEY, even dead I still get no respect.” Dangerfield gravestone read ” There Goes The Neighborhood..”

Born Jacob Cohen, Dangerfield was an American comedian and actor, best known for the catchphrase “I don’t get no respect.” He started out as a regular on “The Dean Martin Show” ( someone I talked about in part one) and The Ed Sullivan Show. He also appeared on The Tonight Show 70 times.

As far as films are concerned, Dangerfield will most be known for his role in Caddyshack, a film that has become a cult classic. Caddyshack is on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American films. The film is also second on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies.” Because of Dangerfield’s performance it led to starring roles in the movies Easy Money and Back To School. He later had a hit music single called “Rappin’ Rodney.”
In 1994, Rodney Dangerfield won an American Comedy Award for lifetime creative achievement. He was also recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, which put one of his trademark white shirts and red ties on display.
One role I will remember him as is when he played Mr. Burn’s son on the cartoon TV show “The Simpsons.”

jim backusAnother famous cartoon character’s voice is buried here. Jim Backus played the voice of Mr. Magoo, a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of sticky situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. At least four Mr. Magoo cartoons were nominated for an Academy Award and a live action film starring Leslie Nelson was made. Backus will be know for many other roles including the rich Hubert Updike III of the Alan Young radio show, Joan Davis’ husband (a court judge) on TV’s I Married Joan, James Dean’s father in Rebel Without a Cause and the piolet who Mickey Rooney & Buddy Hackett hire and find out he likes to drink and fly in the film It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  But the one role everyone should remember him for is from the 1960s hit sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Jim Backus played the role of millionaire Thurston J. Howell III for 98 episodes and three movie sequels. Backus was already a well-known actor by the time he took the part. He reused some of the voice inflections and mannerisms of Mr. Magoo in the role. He was well known for his ad-libs on the set. In 1952 he had a brief scene in Don’t Bother To Knock with fellow graveyard mate Marilyn Monroe.

Bob CraneAnother famous TV star down from Backus is that of Bob Crain who is known has TV’s Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes. In 1965, Crane was offered the starring role in a television comedy pilot about a German P.O.W. camp. Hogan’s Heroes became a hit and finished in the Top Ten in its first year on the air. Crain played Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the sitcom from 1965 to 1971. After Hogan, Crane continued to act, appearing in two Disney films and a number of TV shows, including Police Woman, Quincy, M.E., and The Love Boat. His death and murder is still one of the most bizarre stories in Hollywood and has ties to pornographic movies he was filming at the time. Stratton

 

Up a few graves from Crain is another murder actor. Dorothy Stratten found fame as the Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month for August 1979 and Playmate of the Year for 1980. Stratten afterwards began a modestly successful acting career. She starred in five movies including Skatetown, Autumn Born and two of my favorite films Americathon and Galaxina. Both of those are great comedies. Galaxina is a parody of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien and starred Stratten as a lifelike, voluptuous android named Galaxina who is assigned to oversee the operations of a deep-space freighter. While Americathon stars John Ritter, Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Harvey Korman and Nancy Morgan, & George Carlin it includes a small role with Stratton as well as Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, Meat Loaf, Tommy Lasorda, and Chief Dan George. In the movie the USA has run out of oil, and many Americans are literally living in their (now stationary) cars and either jog or ride bicycles to travel. (Doesn’t sound to far from it now- huh?)

Stratton was murdered my her jealous, controlling and egotistical manager and husband. Both Jamie lee Curtis and Mariel Hemingway have played Stratton in movies of her life. Stratton was only 20 when she was murdered.

Another person with a short career and strange death was Eric Douglas. His grave is right next to Walter Matthau. Douglas was the youngest son of actor Kirk Douglas half-brother of Michael Douglas. He was in Tomboy, The Flamingo Kid but will be most known in the movie The Golden Child with Eddie Murphy. Douglas battled with drug and alcohol problems for years, and had numerous brushes with the law. He was 46 when was found dead in his New York apartment by a maid who had come in to clean.

 

Another person who is in Pierce Bros. and died of mysterious circumstances is Natalie Wood. woodWood starred with fellow graveyard mate Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause as well as Splendor in the Grass and Love With the Proper Stranger. All three earned her a Oscar nomination. Another graveyard mate she starred with was Jack Lemmon in The Great Race. Wood started her career early as a child actor in both Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir in 1947. One of her most noted films is that of the musical West Side Story. Her last film was released after her death, 1983’s Brainstorm. It was while filming that movie with Christopher Walken that Wood and her husband, actor Robert Wagner took a yachting trip with Walken and sometime during the night Wood slipped, hit her head and fell off the boat and drown. There is controversy and speculation about what happen but we lost a great actress.

 

Someone else who starred with Natalie Wood in the movie Meteor is Brian Keith. Keith is in a beautiful side garden with running water over stones. It is very serene. Keith started out in Western movies but his big break came in 1966 when he landed the role of “Uncle Bill” Davis on the popular television situation comedy Family Affair, a role that earned him three Emmy nominations for Best Actor. Family Affair explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Keith), as he attempted to raise his brother’s 3 orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. He is helped by his stuffy English butler Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot who is also buried here and whose grave I missed photographing) Keith will also be known as a father in a popular 1961 Disney film, The Parent Trap, where Hayley Mills plays his twin daughters. Keith played American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley in two film that were considered to be two of his best roles. In the 80’s he was in the TV show Hardcastle and McCormick and he even has his own self titled show “ The Brian Keith Show” in the 70’s. He suffered from emphysema and lung cancer after years of smoking. Keith was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1997, two months after his daughter Daisy had committed suicide.

 

There is a few more stars I would like to talk about and show you their graves, including one of my favorite child actress . More on her next blog

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

An allergy suffer remembers the Benadryl inventor

I just got back from Ontario, California after going to the Podcast and New Media Expo. I met a lot of other podcaster and bloggers and learned a few new things. The event ended on Sunday early enough for me to take a trip that I will talk about in the next few weeks. Final Taxi Logo

I love the air in California and as I got off the plane in Alabama on Monday, I started sneezing. It is the time for ‘ragweed’ here in the south and I am feeling the effects. There was only one thing for me to do to get myself readjusted. I reach in the medicine cabinet and pulled out the Benadryl. Benadryl is commonly used to treat allergy symptoms such as hay fever, rashes and hives
It is a drug that is taken quite a bit in my household. My daughter has several allergies to many things but the most deadly to her is latex. Balloons, gloves, iPod holders, and so many things have this in it and we have to have a few pills of Benadryl on hand all the time.

I thank God for Benadryl and for the inventor George Rieveschl. Rieveschl took his Final Taxi last week at the age of 91.

Having graduated from the Ohio Mechanics Institute of Technology in 1933 as a commercial artist, Rieveschl – unable to find any work in the field – decided instead to enroll at the University of Cincinnati. A decade later, his laboratory research at UC produced the world’s first effective antihistamine: beta-dimethylaminoethylbenzhydryl ether hydrochloride. You and I know it as Benadryl.

I am always blogging that we do not know what the plan of life is and sometimes what we plan is not the way it goes. (Yeah- my “It’s A Wonderful” philosophy.)

If the depression was not on, Rieveschl may have taken another path he says ”If I had found an art job back in the ’30s, I would have taken it. It seemed like bad luck at the time, but it ended up working out pretty well.”

After getting his PhD in chemistry he was given temporary setback when he could get a good job and so he took an $1,800-a-year chemistry teaching job opened up at UC. It required him to teach a chemical engineering class that he had never taken himself, but Rieveschl joked that he ”managed to stay one chapter ahead of the class.”

After the U.S. entered World War II, Rieveschl worked on several projects for the military at UC. One was to create stronger propellants allowing planes to get off the ground faster from short runways. The other was to produce a synthetic leather tanning agent for boot soles to replace the Brazilian tree bark normally used, a source that disappeared when German subs began sinking ships leaving South America.

While teaching he began expanding his own research on local anesthetics and looking for ways to improve muscle-relaxing antispasmodics, such as those used to relieve menstrual cramps.

His antispasmodics were tested on muscle from the small intestine of a guinea pig by triggering contractions and then determining whether a drug could prevent the spasms. Histamine, a chemical released in the body that narrows air passages, is one of three compounds that can trigger such spasms. When Rieveschl’s new compound was tested, its effect was ”a thousand times greater than anything they’d ever seen,” he said, adding, in a modest understatement: ”That certainly got everyone’s attention.”

While the compound, code-named A-524, underwent further clinical testing, Rieveschl began thinking up possible names from its 19-syllable chemical description. He finally settled on Benadryl, choosing the beginning and end of its full name, ”and throwing in a vowel in the middle because it sounded better.”

”Plus, ‘bena’ means benefit, something good,” he said. ”It seemed to fit.”

In the fall of 1943, Rieveschl left UC to work for Parke-Davis.

Because he had invented Benadryl prior to working for Parke-Davis, Rieveschl received a 5 percent royalty for 17 years, the length of the patent. While that proved quite lucrative – based on sales that rose to about $6 million a year by the early ’60s – Rieveschl did not benefit from the astronomic profits when the FDA made Benadryl an over-the-counter drug in the 1980s and sales jumped to $180 million in the first year.

Rieveschl spent 22 years in Detroit working for Parke-Davis, progressing from laboratory research chemist to director of chemical research in 1947, scientific assistant to the president in 1954 and vice president of commercial development in 1961.

By the mid-1960s, however, he had become disenchanted with the company’s conservative management and top executives’ inability to recognize how rapidly the pharmaceutical industry was changing so he left.

After four years as a consultant to a Swiss company and a handful of firms in this country, Rieveschl returned to UC in 1970 and retired in 1982. Five years later the university honored him by naming its main science and engineering building after him. His lengthy list of other honors includes the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce’s Great Living Cincinnatian Award in 1990 and induction into the International Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 1995.

George Rieveschl will be remembered most for inventing Benadryl and for that I am very grateful.