Ginny Tyler, voice actress & Disney legend, passes away at 86

My wife Marlesa and I recently saw the Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom.”   It really brought back a lot of memories to both of us about growing up in the 60’s. Most notable were the scenes with the children listening to “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” on an old portable record player. This theme was repeated several times throughout the movie.  When one of the characters runs away from home she ‘borrows’ her brothers’ record player – leaving him an IOU – and takes it with her.  I remember those pre-ipod days of absolutely longing to carry my records wherever I went.

My parents gave me an allowance growing up, and almost all my money went into buying vinyl 45s. I can remember going to the downtown Sears and Roebuck store and shuffling through children’s records till I found one I couldn’t live without. These particular records didn’t have the big hole in the center that required a plastic spindle insert like other 45s, but instead were shaped with small hole in the center, just like a full-sized vinyl LP.

Most of what I collected were stories based on Disney movies or recordings of their characters singing songs.  Many of these records featured a particular female voice that I can still hear in my mind. It was the voice of Ginny Tyler, one of the Disneyland Storytellers.

Ginny Tyler has taken her final taxi at the age of 86.

Tyler was born Merrie Virginia Erlandson and adopted  her stage name Tyler when she started out in radio. She moved on to become host of a children’s show in Seattle, Washington.  Around 1950, she moved to Los Angeles and started narrating albums for Disney.  During that time she made friends with Art Clokey and became part of the group that made the breakthrough stop motion animation cartoon “Gumby.” Tyler voiced several characters on the children’s show.  This lead to another stop motion animation cartoon popular in the 60’s called  “Davey and Goliath.”

Disney tapped  Tyler to narrate short films for the “Mickey Mouse Club”  in the 1960’s. She would take older footage and update it with her more modern voice.  Also for Disney she voiced the two female squirrels in “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and sang several parts of animated animals in “Mary Poppins” (1964).  A large movie role came for Tyler in 1967 when she worked alongside Rex Harrison in “Doctor Dolittle.” She voiced the part of Polynesia – the parrot who spoke over  two thousand languages (including Dodo and Unicorn.)

I will fondly remember her for the super-hero cartoons of my childhood.  In 1966 she worked for two seasons on Space Ghost. Tyler played the voice of Space Ghost’s sidekick Jan who was always the damsel in distress. Switching gears, she was also the female villain Black Widow.  In 1978 she voiced Sue Richards aka The Invisible Girl in The Fantastic Four cartoon. 

For years Ginny Tyler’s voice was a part of my life.

After the movie ‘Casper’ came out on DVD, I wanted to turn my children onto the old Casper TV shows from the 1960s. As we settled down with the popcorn and I hit the play button on the DVD player, I was pleasantly surprise to find the sweetly not-too-scary voice of Casper done by none other than Tyler. A haunting voice from my childhood that I’ll always remember….

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Those Who Have Taken Their Final Taxi In 2009

A decade comes to an end and in 2009 that end came to several celebrities. We lost several entertainers during 2009’s infamous ‘summer of death’ as names like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, David Carradine, Ed McMahon all died within days of each other. Of that lot one name shocked the public the most: Michael Jackson. In his short life of 50 years Jackson helped shape popular music and culture. From his early years with the Jackson 5 to his solo career he maintained the title ‘King of Pop.’ Other deaths without warnings for the year included actress Natasha Richardson, David Carradine, and of course Brittany Murphy.
Through 2009 we all watched as Patrick Swayze continued to act ( in the TV series ‘The Beast’) knowing he didn’t have long to live. It didn’t make is easier as the actor in films like ‘Ghost’ & ‘Dirty Dancing’ died due to pancreatic cancer in September.
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 2009:

JANUARY
Johannes Mario Simmel, 84. Austrian-born author; topped German-language best-seller lists. Jan. 1.
Jett Travolta, 16. John Travolta’s son. Jan. 2.
Betty Freeman, 87. Modern-art collector, music patron. Jan. 3.
Olga San Juan, 81. Actress, dancer known as “Puerto Rican Pepperpot.” Jan. 3.

Pat Hingle, 84. Tony-nominated stage actor. (I will always remember him as Commissioner Gordon in the “Batman” movies.) Jan. 3.
Ned Tanen, 77. As Paramount and Universal chairman. ( The man who help bring “Top Gun,” “E.T.” into our lives). Jan. 5.
Ron Asheton, 60. Punk rock guitarist for the Stooges. ( Worked great alongside Iggy Pop) Jan. 6.
Cheryl Holdridge, 64. Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club”; also known for playing Wally Cleaver’s girlfriend Julie Foster in the TV series “Leave it to Beaver.” Jan. 6.
John Scott Martin,82, Actor best known for playing the chief Dalek in the “Dr. Who” Also in “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” “Pink Floyd The Wall” “Ali G Indahouse,” “Erik the Viking,” Jan 6
Don Galloway, Actor playing officer Ed Brown in TV’s “Ironside” and was also JoBeth Williams’ husband in “The Big Chill.” Jan 7
Cornelia Wallace, 69, Former Alabama First Lady (Loved that she was played by sexy Angelina Jolie in mini-series with Gary Sinese) Jan 8
Jon Hager, 67. One of the Hager Twins on TV’s “Hee-Haw.” ( The other twin died last year.) Jan. 9
Henry Endo, 87, Actor who played Che Fong on the hit TV series “Hawaii 5-0.” Jan 9
Daniel Allar, 46, Played Avacado in season one of “Prison Break.” Jan 10
Tom O’Horgan, 84. Directed “Hair,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway. Jan. 11.
Claude Berri, 74. French actor, director. Jan. 12.
W.D. Snodgrass, 83. Pulitzer-winning poet (“Heart’s Needle”). Jan. 13.
Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar, 81. Star mambo dancer in 1950s. Jan. 13.
Patrick McGoohan, 80. Emmy-winning actor. Will be remembered as ‘6’ in the cult TV classic “The Prisoner” but I loved him in Braveheart as Edward Longshanks. Jan. 13.
Hortense Calisher, 97. Fiction writer known for dense prose (“False Entry”). Jan. 13.
Ricardo Montalban, 88. Actor – What a loss! Known for MGM musicals, Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island,” or my favorite as Star Trek villain Kahn. Jan. 14.
John Mortimer, 85. British writer; created curmudgeonly lawyer Rumpole of the Bailey. Jan. 16.
Susanna Foster,84, Actress remembered for starring with Claude Raines in the 1943 remake of “Phantom of the Opera.” Jan 17
David “Fathead” Newman, 75. Jazz saxophonist; played with range of luminaries, including Ray Charles. Jan. 20.
Darrell Sandeen,78, Actor; rogue cop Buzz Meeks in “L.A. Confidential.” Also in “Father Murphy,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Bonanza” Jan 22
Kim Manners,58, Director; Nominated four time for Emmy awards for “The X Files.” He produced over 100 episodes and directed over 50 episodesof the series. Jan 25
James Brady, 80, Author, Parade magazine celebrity columnist. Jan. 26.
John Updike, 76, Pulitzer-winning novelist, essayist. Jan. 27.
Billy Powell, 56, Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird”). Saw him in the original lineup in the 70’s Jan. 28.
John Martyn, 60. British singer-songwriter, guitarist (“May You Never”). Jan. 29.
Hans Beck, 79. Created colorful Playmobil toy figures. Jan. 30.
Milton Parker, 90. Owned New York City’s Carnegie Deli, known for gargantuan sandwiches. Jan. 30.

FEBRUARY

Lukas Foss, 86. Avant-garde composer. Feb. 1.
Dewey Martin, 68. Drummer with influential band Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”). Feb. 1.
Lux Interior, 62. Lead singer of horror-punk band the Cramps. (What a shock this was for me! A lost talent.) Feb. 4.

James Whitmore, 87. Actor ; did one-man shows on Harry Truman & Will Rogers but most younger audiences will remember him as Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption. Feb. 6.
Philip Carey, 83. Played tycoon Asa Buchanan in “One Life to Live.” Feb. 6.
Molly Bee, 69. Country singer; teamed with Tennessee Ernie Ford (“Don’t Go Courtin’ in a Hot Rod Ford”). Feb. 7.
Blossom Dearie, 84. Jazz singer with girlish voice. Feb. 7.
Robert Anderson, 91. Broadway playwright (“Tea and Sympathy”). Feb. 9.
Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez, 76. Bassist for Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. Feb. 9.
Estelle Bennett, 67. One of the Ronettes, ’60s girl group (“Be My Baby”). Feb. 11.
Hugh Leonard, 82. Irish playwright; won Tony for father-son drama “Da.” Feb. 12.
Gerry Niewood, 64, and Coleman Mellett, 34. Members of Chuck Mangione’s band. Feb. 12. Buffalo, New York ( plane crash. )
Louie Bellson, 84. Jazz drummer; performed with Duke Ellington, wife Pearl Bailey. Feb. 14.
Snooks Eaglin, 72. New Orleans R&B singer, guitarist. Feb. 18.
Kelly Groucutt, 63. Bass player with Electric Light Orchestra. ( Saw my first concert with him playing with ELO) Feb. 19.
Howard Zieff, 81. Directed films (“Private Benjamin”), TV ads (Alka-Seltzer’s “Spicy Meatballs.” ) Feb. 22.
Philip Jose Farmer, 91. Science-fiction writer. (World of Tiers & Riverworld series) Feb. 25.

Wendy Richard, 65. Actress: Known as Miss Brahms in “Are You Being Served?” & Pauline Fowler in “EastEnders.” Feb. 26.
Paul Harvey, 90. Radio news and talk pioneer; one of the nation’s most familiar voices. Feb. 28.
Natasha Richardson , 45, Actress: Films include Nell, The Parent Trap & Maid in Manhattan. Married to actor Liam Neeson. Died in skiing accident.

MARCH

Joan Turner, 86, Comedian & actress; “All About the Benjamins,” “Scandal,” “No Surrender,” & as Marilyn Chamber’s aunt in the porn classic “Insatiable” March 1
Ernie Ashworth, 80. Grand Ole Opry singer (“Talk Back Trembling Lips”). March 2.
Sydney Chaplin, 82. Tony-winning actor; son of Charlie Chaplin (“Bells Are Ringing”). March 3.
Horton Foote 92. Playwright (“The Trip to Bountiful”) and screenwriter (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). March 4.
Kyle Tucy Sweet, 52, Make-up artist in such films as “The Terminator,” “Teen Wolf,” “Ghost,” & “Repo Man” ( Side note; she was wife of Michael Sweet, the lead singer of the Christian rock band “Stryper.) March 5
Jimmy Boyd, 70. Child actor, singer known for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. March 7.
Tullio Pinelli, Writer & Director; Wrote 13 films for Federico Fellini. including “8½,” “La Dolce Vita,” “I Vitelloni” and “La Strada.” March 7
Hank Locklin, 91. Smooth-voiced country singer “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On”. March 8.
Anne Wiggins Brown, 96. Soprano; the original Bess in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” March 13.
Betsy Blair, 85. Actress, Oscar-nominated for role as shy woman courted by homely Ernest Borgnine in “Marty.” March 13.
Alan Livingston,91, Music exec; Created Bozo The Clown and while at Capitol Records brought the Beatles to the US. March 13
Millard Kaufman, 92. Writer; Oscar nominations for writing “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “Take the High Ground!” Co-creator of “Mr. Magoo.” March 14.

Ron Silver, 62. Actor, Director, Producer: Films include: “Reversal of Fortune,” “Enemies, a Love Story,” “Silkwood” “Ali,” “Best Friends,” “Garbo Talks.” TV: “Rhoda,” “Veronica’s Closet,” “The West Wing” March 15.
Jack Lawrence, 96. Lyricist for Frank Sinatra’s first hit, “All or Nothing at All.” March 15.
Eddie Bo, 79. New Orleans blues singer-pianist; worked with greats such as Irma Thomas. March 18.
Uriel Jones, 74. Drummer for Motown in songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” “I Second That Emotion” “For Once In My Life. March 24.
Dan Seals, 61. Half of duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. March 25.
Steven Bach, 70. Movie executive and writer. Ran United Artists studio and killed it with the movie “Heaven’s Gate. ( Also produced “Raging Bull,” “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” “Annie Hall,” “Eye of the Needle” ) March 25.
Irving R. Levine, 86. NBC newsman. War March 27.
Maurice Jarre, 84. Oscar-winning film composer (“Lawrence of Arabia,” &”Doctor Zhivago”). March 28.
Andy Hallett, 33. Actor who played the demon Lorne in TV series “Angel.” March 29.
Hal Durham,77, Announcer for the Grand Ole Opry from 1964 through 1996 March 30

APRIL

Bud Shank, 82. Jazz saxophonist, flutist ( He played with Mamas & the Papas on “California Dreamin'”). April 2.
Tom Braden, 92. Helped launch CNN’s “Crossfire”; wrote memoir “Eight Is Enough,” which inspired a TV show. April 3.
Victor Millan, 89, Actor who played Sal Mineo’s father in the classic “Giant.” Other credits “Boulevard Nights,” “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze,” & Brian DePalma’s “Scarface.”
Maxine Cooper,84, Actress and social activist; Active in civil rights during the 1960s while making films like “Fear on Trial,” & “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” ( I loved her as a sick passenger in the “Airplane!”) April 4
Dave Arneson, 61. Co-creator of groundbreaking Dungeons & Dragons fantasy game. April 7.
David “Pop” Winans Sr., 76. Grammy-nominated patriarch of gospel music family. April 8.
Randy Cain, 63. Member of “Philadelphia sound” soul group the Delfonics. April 9.
Jane Bryan,90, Actress that appeared in nearly 20 films during the late 1930s.( “Marked Woman ” “Kid Galahad.” “Brother Rat”) April 8
Marilyn Chambers, 56. Actress in the groundbreaking porn film “Behind the Green Door.” April 12.
Jack D. Hunter, 87. Wrote novel “The Blue Max,” made into 1966 film. April 13.
Peter Rogers, 95. Producer of the British “Carry On” films. April 14.
J.G. Ballard, 78. Author of “Empire of the Sun” and “Crash” April 19.
Tharon Musser, 84. Tony-winning lighting designer (“A Chorus Line,” “Follies”). April 19.
Jack Cardiff, 94. Oscar-winning cinematographer on the classic “Black Narcissus.” His other cinematography Oscar nods were for “War and Peace” and “Fanny.”. April 22.
Ken Annakin, 94. Director: “Battle of the Bulge,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Longest Day.” April 22.
The Rev. Timothy Wright, 61. Grammy-nominated gospel singer, and composer (“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”). April 23.

Bea Arthur, 86, Actress known to TV audiences as “Maude” in the 1970s & on “Golden Girls” as Dorothy. Received eleven Emmy nominations during her career April 24
Salamo Arouch, 86. Jewish boxer whose Auschwitz experiences inspired movie “Triumph of the Spirit.” April 26.
J.J. Linsalata, 65, Assistant director; worked on children’s TV show “The Big Blue Marble,” “X-Men 2,” “Kindergarten Cop.” April 27
Vern Gosdin, 74. Country singer: “I Can Tell By The Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight)”, “Set ’em Up Joe” and “I’m Still Crazy”. April 28.

MAY

Danny Gans, 52. Singer-Actor-Comdeian; Films: “Bull Durham,” “Sinatra,” “Race To Witch Mountain”. May 1.
Ric Estrada, 81, Animator on “Jonny Quest,” “Pound Puppies,” “Smurfs,” “Challenge of the GoBots,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “Tiny Toon Adventures” May 1
Marilyn French, 79. Feminist writer; “The Women’s Room” May 2.

Dom DeLuise, 75. Actor. I think this is one actor I will miss most in the 2009 Final Taxi riders. Wither working with Burt Reynolds (The Cannonball Run, The End, All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) or with Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, History of the World, Part I, Spaceballs) DeLuise will be remembered as one of the great comedians of the 70’sand 80’s May 4.
Randall ‘Poodie’ Locke,60, Willie Nelson’s stage manager for over 30 years May 6
Vincent Davis, 65 , Animation director for “Cow and Chicken.” “The Batman,” “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” “Duck Tales,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Wuzzles,” “My Little Pony,” “The Mouse and His Child,” “Garfield and Friends” and “Mother Goose and Grimm.” May 6
Linda Dangcil, 67, Actress best known for her role as Sister Ana in the Sally Fields TV series “The Flying Nun.” May 7
Mickey Carroll, 89. One of last surviving Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz.” May 7.
John Furia Jr., 79. Film & television writer ( “ Twilight Zone,” “Bonanza,” “The Waltons”). May 8.
Stephen Bruton, 60. Guitarist, songwriter; worked with T Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, Rita Coolidge, Christine McVie, Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton & Kris Kristofferson. May 9.
Wayman Tisdale, 44. Jazz musican May 15.
Alice Eisner,87, Actress in “The Cemetery Club,” “Zac and Miri Make a Porno,” “Passed Away” May 15
Lee Solters, 89. Hollywood publicist; clients included Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand. May 18.
Jay Bennett, 45. Ex-member of rock band Wilco. May 24.

JUNE


Koko Taylor, 80. Known as “Queen of the Blues” for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues stylings. June 3.
Sam Butera, 81. Las Vegas saxophonist; teamed with Louis Prima, Keely Smith. June 3.
Shih Kien, 96. Veteran Hong Kong actor; Bruce Lee’s archrival in 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.” June 3.

David Carradine, 72. Actor who appeared in more than 100 feature films. (“Death Race 2000,” “Bound for Glory,” “Kill Bill”) He will be remembered as the half-breed Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine on the hit TV series Kung Fu June 4.
Fleur Cowles, 101. Author; founded magazine “Flair.” June 5.
Kenny Rankin, 69. Pop vocalist, musician, songwriter. June 7.
Norman Brinker, 78. The man who give us Chili’s restaurant. June 9.
Bob Bogle, 75. Guitarist, co-founded of the rock band the Ventures. June 14.
Ed McMahon, 86. Tonight Show sidekick of Johnny Carson and host of Star Search. June 23.

Farrah Fawcett, 62, Sex symbol of the 70’s. I had her poster on my bedroom wall. Starred in “Charlie’s Angels.” June 25
Michael Jackson, 50, The King of Pop. Starting with the Jackson 5 and moving to a solo career his 1982 album Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time, with Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995) also among the world’s best selling albums. 15 Grammy Awards & 26 American Music Awards. June 25
Gale Storm, 87. Actress in the early TV show “My Little Margie”. June 27.
Billy Mays, 50. Bearded TV salesman for such items as OxiClean, Orange Glo & Kaboom. June 28.
Fred Travalena, 66. Las Vegas impressionist. June 28.
Harve Presnel,75, Actor best remembered as William H. Macy’s father-in-law in 1996 film “Fargo” & was a regular in the TV series “The Pretender” June 29

JULY

Karl Malden, 97. Oscar-winning actor whose career spanned more than seven decades. Films include A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, How the West Was Won and Patton. TV he played Lt. Mike Stone on the 1970s crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco. July 1.

Mollie Sugden, 87, Actress who remembered as Mrs Slocombe in long-running BBC sitcom “Are You Being Served?” Every episode Sugden sported a different hair color and continually harped on about her “pussy”. July 1
Allen Klein, 77. Music manager who worked with the Beatles & Rolling Stones. July 4.
Vasily Aksyonov, 76. Russian writer (“Generations of Winter) July 6.
Sir Edward Downes, 85. Longtime head of the BBC Philharmonic. July 10.
Beverly Roberts, 96, Actress in “The Singing Kid”, “Two Against The World with Humphrey Bogart, “China Clipper” &“God’s Country and the Woman” July 13
Walter Cronkite, 92. THE TV News anchorman for a generation. On CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). Reported many events from 1937 to 1981, including bombing in World War II, the Nuremberg trials, Vietnam War,the death of President John F. Kennedy, Watergate, the Moon landings, to the Space Shuttle. The first American broadcast of The Beatles was with Walter Cronkite. July 17.
Gordon Waller, 64. Half of the pop duo Peter and Gordon. July 17.
Frank McCourt, 78. Irish-born schoolteacher who enjoyed a Pulitzer, for memoir “Angela’s Ashes.” July 19.
Heinz Edelmann, 75. Graphic designer; art director of the 1968 Beatles film “Yellow Submarine.” July 21.
John “Marmaduke” Dawson, 64. Co-founded psychedelic country band New Riders of the Purple Sage. July 21.
Les Lye, 84, Know as one of the only two multitalented adults on the children’s show You Can’t Do That On Television July 21
Merce Cunningham, 90. Avant-garde dancer and choreographer who revolutionized modern dance. July 26.
George Russell, 86. Jazz composer; theories influenced greats like Miles Davis. July 27.
Gidget, 15 known as the Taco Bell talking Chihuahua July 27

AUGUST

Naomi Sims, 61. Black model of the ’60s. Aug. 1.
Billy Lee Riley, 75. Rockabilly performer recording “Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll” and “Red Hot”. Aug. 2.
Budd Schulberg, 95. Novelist (“What Makes Sammy Run?”) and Oscar-winning screenwriter (“On the Waterfront”). Aug. 5.
John Hughes, 59. Writer-director of the 80’s so-called ‘Brat pack’ films. (“Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” “ Pretty in Pink,” “Home Alone”). Aug. 6.
Willy DeVille, 58. Singer, songwriter; Founder of punk group Mink DeVille who were a regular at New York’s CBGBs Aug. 6.
Mike Seeger, 75. Co-founded traditional folk group the New Lost City Ramblers. Aug. 7.

John Quade, 71. Character actor; Played the villain in several Clint Eastwood movies including High Plains Drifter, Outlaw Josey Wales, and Every Which Way But Loose. Aug. 9.
Rashied Ali, 76. Jazz drummer who worked with John Coltrane. Aug. 12.
Les Paul, 94 guitarist and inventor. Pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar which “made the sound of rock and roll” and also helped in multi-track recording. Aug. 13
Virginia Davis, 90. As child actress, appeared in Walt Disney’s early “Alice” films in the ’20s. Aug. 15.
Robert Novak, 78. Syndicated columnist, journalist, television personality, author, and conservative political commentator Aug. 18.
Hildegard Behrens, 72. German-born soprano hailed as one of the finest Wagnerian performers of her generation. Aug. 18.
Don Hewitt, 86. TV news pioneer who created “60 Minutes” and produced it for 36 years. Aug. 19.
Larry Knechtel, 69. Grammy-winning keyboardist and member of the 70’s soft-rock band Bread. Best known for his work as a session musician with such artists as Simon & Garfunkel, Duane Eddy, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doors, and Elvis Presley. Aug. 20.
Elmer Kelton, 83. Acclaimed Western novelist (Buffalo Wagons, The Day the Cowboys Quit, The Day It Never Rained, Eyes of the Hawk, The Good Old Boys). Aug. 22.
Ted Kennedy, 77, United States Senator from Massachusetts Aug 25
Ellie Greenwich, 68. Singer/Songwriter for “Be My Baby”, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Leader of the Pack”, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, and “River Deep, Mountain High”, among many others. She discovered Neil Diamond and sang backing vocals on several of Diamond’s hit songs. Aug. 26.
Dominick Dunne, 83. Best-selling author and host of “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice” on CourtTV. Aug. 26.

Sadie Corré, 91, Actress known for one of the Ewoks in Star Wars and became a cult figure as the short Transylvanian in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Aug 26
Sergei Mikhalkov, 96. Soviet author. Aug. 27.
Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein, 36. Celebrity disc jockey and reality-TV actor. Aug. 28.
Chris Connor, 81. Female jazz vocalist who recorded songs like “Jeepers Creepers”, “If I Should Lose You”, “I Get A Kick Out Of You”& “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” Aug. 29.
Marie Knight, 84. Gospel music singer with songs like “Cry Me A River,” “Beams of Heaven”, “Didn’t it Rain”, and “Up Above My Head. Aug. 30.

SEPTEMBER

Erich Kunzel, 74, leader of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Sept. 1
Wycliffe Johnson, 47. Keyboardist and producer: made Reggae music popular as part of Steely & Clevie. Preformed alongside the Specials, Bounty Killer, Elephant Man, and No Doubt. Sept. 1.
Bill Hefner, 79. 12-term North Carolina congressman and gospel singer. Sept. 2.
Keith Waterhouse, 80. British playwright, novelist and columnist. Wrote several TV series for BBC. Sept. 4.
Frank Coghlan, Jr, 93, Actor who played the caped super-hero Captain Marvel in 1941 movie series. (Shazam!) Sept 7
Army Archerd, 87. Write for Hollywood’s Daily Variety. Sept. 8.
Frank Batten Sr., 82. Founder of the first nationwide, 24-hour cable weather channel, The Weather Channel through his media giant Landmark Communications. Sept. 10.
Jim Carroll, 60. Poet, punk rocker. Wrote “The Basketball Diaries” a story of his life. I’ll remember Carroll for one song I hear in my head every time I write this blog, “People Who Died.” Sept. 11
Larry Gelbart, 81. Screen writer. Wrote skits form early TV before writing screenplay for “M*A*S*H,” “Tootsie,” “Oh, God!’ to name a few.. Sept. 11.
Pierre Cossette, 85. Record label founder who brought the Grammy Awards to television.. Sept. 11.
Crystal Lee Sutton, 68. Her fight to unionize Southern textile plants became the film “Norma Rae.” Sept. 11.
Yoshihito Usui, 51, creator of feisty kindergartner “Shin Chan,” (seen on Cartoon Network) took Final Taxi after falling off cliff Sept 11
Paul Burke, 83. Two-time Emmy nominee for his role as Detective Adam Flint in the gritty crime drama “Naked City.” Sept. 13.

Patrick Swayze, 57. Movie heartthrob who starred in films including “Dirty Dancing,” “Red Dawn,” “Ghost.” “Point Break,” “Road House ,” Sept. 14.
Henry Gibson, 73. Comic character actor; loved him as the Nazi leader in The Blues Brothers or evil neighbor in The ‘Burbs . Sept. 14.
Trevor Rhone, 69. Jamaican playwright; co-wrote the reggae film “The Harder They Come.” Sept. 15.
Mary Travers, 72. One-third of the ’60s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. I remember her more for her radio talk show Mary Travers Presents where she talked to several of my rock heroes. If listened to in stereo Mary was in one speaker while the guest would be in the other. Sept. 16.
Linda C. Black, 65. Syndicated columnist. Sept. 17.
Dick Duroc,72, Actor and Stuntman; Best known for role of “Swamp Thing” in the movies and TV series. Sept 17
Art Ferrante, 88. Half of the piano duo Ferrante and Teicher. Sept. 19.

Robert Ginty,60, Actor, director and producer; One of the mose overlooked deaths of 2009- Started as a rock drummer playing with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana and John Lee Hooker before moving to acting. Had a regular role on TV’s “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” In 1978 played Bruce Dern’s friend in “Coming Home” It was 1980’s “The Exterminator” that launched him into that of an unforgettable action star. Sept 21
Alicia de Larrocha, 86. Reuters referred to her as “the greatest Spanish pianist in history” Sept. 25.
William Safire, 79. Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist Sept. 27.
John “Bootsie” Wilson,69.lead singer of the Silhouettes. Their # 1 song ‘Get a Job’ became a national anthem of doo-wop. Sept 29

OCTOBER

Mercedes Sosa, 74. Argentine folk singer. Oct. 4.
Stephen Gately, 33. Singer with Irish boy band Boyzone. Oct. 10.
Al Martino, 82. Singer,played the Frank Sinatra-type role in “The Godfather.” Oct. 13.
Daniel Melnick, 77. Producer of acclaimed films “Straw Dogs,” “Network.” Oct. 13.
Lou Albano, 76. Pro wrestler; appeared Cyndi Lauper’s dad in the music video “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and other video by her. Oct. 14.
Collin Wilcox-Paxton, 74. Portrayed the false accuser in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Oct. 14.
Vic Mizzy, 93. Songwriter; best-known works are the themes to the 1960s television sitcoms Green Acres and The Addams Family. He also penned top-20 songs from the 1930s to 1940s.. Oct. 17.
Joseph Wiseman, 91. Actor; played the villain Dr. No in James Bond film of that name. Oct. 19.
Soupy Sales, 83. Comedian who perfected the pies to the face gag. Was also seen in several game shows. Oct. 22.

Lou Jacobi, 95. Actor with notable film roles including Uncle Morty in “My Favorite Year” Moustache in “Irma La Douce,” a transvestite husband in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask),” Barry Levinson’s “Avalon;” and my favorite as the remote controled husband who get caught in his underwear between channels in “Amazon Women on the Moon”. Oct. 23.
Troy N. Smith, Sr, 87, American entrepreneur who founded Sonic Drive-In Oct 26
Claude Levi-Strauss, 100. French intellectual considered father of modern anthropology. Oct. 30.

NOVEMBER

Lou Filippo, 83. World Boxing Hall of Famer; had small roles in “Rocky” movies. Nov. 2.
Sheldon Dorf, 76. Founded Comic-Con International comic-book convention. Nov. 3.

Carl Ballantine, 92. Actor-comedian. Best remembered as Lester Gruber, one of the PT boat sailors in the sitcom “McHale’s Navy ” Nov. 3.
Ron Sproat,77, Screenwriter who wrote 100s of episodes of the dark gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” Nov 6
David Lloyd, 75, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier and Wings Nov 10
Paul Wendkos, 84. TV, film director of the Gidget movies and The Mephisto Waltz, and Guns of the Magnificent Seven to name a few Nov. 12.
Ken Ober, 52. Hosted ’80s MTV game show “Remote Control.” Nov. 15.
Dennis Cole, 69, Character actor who played on TV in shows Medical Center, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Three’s Company, and Murder, She Wrote.

Edward Woodward, 79. British actor most known for playing ex-secret agent and vigilante Robert McCall in the series The Equalizer. Among his film credits, Woodward starred in the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man, and in the title role in Breaker Morant. Nov. 16.
Al Alberts, 87. Member of singing Four Aces who recorded “”Three Coins in the Fountain” & “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing”. Nov. 27.

DECEMBER

Aaron Schroeder, 84. Songwriter of Elvis Presley song’s “ A Big Hunk o’ Love,” “ Good Luck Charm,” ” It’s Now or Never,” & more. Also songs for Roy Orbison, Duane Eddy, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Perry Como and Pat Boone. Dec. 1.
Richard Todd, 90. British actor who was the first choice of author Ian Fleming to play James Bond in Dr. No, but a scheduling conflict gave the role to Sean Connery. Dec. 3.
Vyacheslav Tikhonov, 81. Russian actor; starred in Oscar-winning Soviet production of “War and Peace.” Dec. 4.
Liam Clancy, 74. Last of Clancy Brothers Irish folk-song troupe. Dec. 4.
Bryan O’Byrne , 78, Actor; priest in the elevator in “Love at First Bite,” Reverend Simmons in “Murder She Wrote.” Hodgkins in 5 episodes of “Get Smart Dec 4
Mark Ritts, 63, Puppeteer; Played Lester the Lab Rat on “Beakman’s World Dec 7

Gene Barry, 90, Actor, known for roles in TV’s “Bat Masterson” & Amos Burke on “Burke’s Law” Also in both versions of “War of the Worlds” Dec 9
Roy Disney, 79. Nephew of Walt Disney, 56-year company veteran who helped make such blockbusters as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” Dec. 16.
Conrad Fowkes, 76, Actor in soap operas:Search For Tomorrow, The Edge of Night, The Secret Storm, As The World Turns and cult favorite ‘Dark Shadows’ Dec 15
Jennifer Jones, 90. Actress, won Academy Award for “Song of Bernadette” Nominated for“Duel in the Sun” and “Love Letters.” Dec. 17.
Dan O’Bannon, 63, Screenwriter, director, actor. O’Bannon will be most known for writing of all the Alien movies. He worked on“Heavy Metal,” “Blue Thunder,” “The Return of the Living Dead,” “Invaders From Mars “and “Total Recall.” He did special effects work on “Star Wars.” My favorite movie was his student film he did with John Carpenter called “Dark Star.” This film help movie bookers listen to me to make a mid-might film series in Birmingham. Dec 17
Alaina Reed-Amini, 63, Actress from 1976 to 1988, she played the role of ‘Olivia’ on the popular children’s show “Sesame Street” and then moved to NBC’s “227” Dec 17
Connie Hines, 78, Actress most famous for playing Wilbur’s wife in “Mister Ed Dec 18
Brittany Murphy, 32. Movie actress; What a shocker for the year! her breakout film was 1995’s “Clueless.” Many people loved her in “Just Married” “Girl, Interrupted” and “8 Mile” Dec. 20.

Arnold Stang, 91, Nerdy looking actor was the spokesman for Chunky, the candy bar and the voice of T.C., the leader of cats in cartoon, “Top Cat.” In 1963 “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Stang was one of the two attendants who witnessed their gas station being destroyed by a toppling water tower. Dec 20
Marianne Stone, 87, Played Nurse Alice Able in the Carry On movies and Vivian Darkbloom in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita.” Dec 21
Michael Currie, 81, started as Sheriff Jonas Carter in the cult series “Dark Shadows” and moved to the Dirty Harry movies as Captain Donnelly. Worked with Clint Eastwood as well in “Firefox” and “Any Which Way You Can”. Dec 22
Tim Hart , 61, Founder of the British folk rock band Steeleye Span Dec 27.
James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, 28, drummer for heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold Dec 28
Erik Gates, 47, member of Discovery Channel hit series ‘Mythbusters’ Dec 29

How many of these people touched your life in one form or another during their lifetime?

Voice Actor- Dallas McKennon

One of my favorite things in life has always been listening to records. As a child my mother would reward me for doing my chores by taking me the big Sears and Roebuck store in downtown Birmingham. Once in the record section I would cruise through the vinyl till I got to the children’s corner. There I would buy a 45 RPM of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, or the long forgotten Super Dupers. About 90% of what I had was from Disneyland Records. The person that I heard on those Disneyland Records was a man called Dallas McKennon. The final taxi has taken another great voice actor.

Dallas McKennon 89 is voice that you may have heard during a trip to your favorite Disney location. Just before you get on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride, you would hear “Hold on to your hats and glasses! This here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” That recorded voice was that of McKennon.

McKennon will be heard in several Disney films including Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Lady & the Tramp, and 101 Dalmatians.

When CBS decided to make an animated series out of the popular Archie comic book, they chose McKennon to voice the main character of Archie. The show debuted in September 1968 and aired, in various forms, until 1978.

In the 50’s McKennon hosted a children’s TV show and was asked to voice a new stop action animated short about a green clay humanoid figure and his many adventures. The show was called Gumby and it ran a total of 233-episodes. I still love watching these and hearing McKennon’s one of a kind voice.

If you still do not know who Dallas McKennon is you may remember him from his live action roles. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds will recall the cook who yells, “Don’t throw that match!” in the gas station scene where the birds attacked people outside the restaurant . On the Daniel Boone TV series with Fess Parker, he had a recurring role as Cinncinatus, the old storekeeper. He was also in the Elvis Presley move Clambake.

Rocketeer’s creator – Dave Stevens

Back in the early 80’s I was buying comics from a tobacco store that doubled as a comic book shop in Tuscaloosa Alabama. I had become a fan of a writer/ artist Mike Grell. His Jon Sable- Freelance book was ahead of it time in story and art. I also picked up Mike Grell’s Starslayer #2 published from Pacific Comics that year. Something more that Grell’s work blew me away. rocketeer and Jenny
In it was a backup story for a character called the Rocketeer. Many other comic readers took notice for this story as well. It combined elements of classic pulp fiction heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow into the narration, but is also had artwork that was incredible. One of the draws for many of the male audience was the sexy art of the heroes girlfriend. She looked a lot like the popular 50’s model, Bettie Page.Bettie Page became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. While she faded into obscurity in the 1960s after her conversion to Christianity, she experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1980s (thanks to the Rocketeer) and now has a significant cult following.

The Rocketeer was created and drawn by Dave Stevens. It is comic book and pin-up artist Dave Stevens who has taken his Final Taxi due to leukemia at age 52.

Stevens was born July 29, 1955 in Lynwood, California, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. His first professional comic work was inking Russ Manning’s pencils for the daily Tarzan newspaper comic strips in 1975. ( Fittingly, he won the inaugural Russ Manning Award in 1982 for most promising newcomer.) Starting in 1977 he drew storyboards for Hanna-Barbara animated TV shows, including Super Friends and The Godzilla Power Hour.

1n 1982 Stevens created the character “The Rocketeer.” The Rocketeer was a stunt pilot, Cliff Secord, who discovered a mysterious jet pack that allowed him to fly. The character’s adventures were set in 1938 Los Angeles and Stevens gave them a retro, nostalgic feel, influenced by, among other things, Commando Cody movie serials and pinup diva Bettie Page.

The eponymous superhero’s girlfriend was inspired by Stevens’ ex-wife, the actress Brinke Stevens, who continued to model for him after their divorce (although he always substituted the face of glamour icon Bettie Page).

Stevens was a huge fan of Bettie Page and captured her sensual beauty in hundreds of drawings and paintings. He later befriended her and gave her a share of his earning on the comic.

The character migrated from Eclipse to Comico, and finally ended up at Dark Horse Comics. Later, the character was transformed into a 1991 Disney film The Rocketeer, which starred Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton. Mr. Stevens co-produced the hit film.

Stevens did uncredited storyboard work on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” He appeared as himself in the documentary “Frazetta: Painting With Fire.”

When asked in an interview about how he created his most famous creation, Dave Steven said, ” I’d always loved the idea of a guy flying like a bird, with just a combustible contraption strapped to his back. The image really appealed to me. But I didn’t want to be stuck doing an exact replication of the serials, with Martians, death-rays, etc. That wasn’t the quite the approach I wanted to take. I wanted to do a real period aviation strip, but with one small element of science-fiction added: The rocket-pack! So I came up with the outfit and the name. You know, a funny take on the word, racketeer, “The Rocketeer.” I thought it sounded catchy and the drawing seemed to work.”

Robocop’s Sgt. Reed – Robert DoQui

 Do you remember those Robocop movies?

Robert DoQui, a stage, screen and TV actor whose rough-edged character roles included Sgt. Warren Reed in three Robocop movies has taken his Final Taxi at age 74.

Robort DoQui as Sgt. Warren Reed in the Robocop movies. He played the role in all three films.

Born in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1934, DoQui attended Langston University on a music scholarship and was a member of singing group the Langstonaires. He served in the United States Air Force for four years before going to New York, then Hollywood.

In the 1960s, he began acting in films and TV shows.

DoQui was a guest on a wide variety of live-action TV series, including Gunsmoke, Tarzan, I Dream of Jeannie, Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Maude, E.R., NYPD Blue, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (as a Klingon), Picket Fences, Starman, Webster, The Fall Guy, Punky Brewster, Hill Street Blues, The Streets of San Francisco, Sanford and Son, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Mod Squad, The Fugitive, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Outer Limits. He last appeared on a 2003 episode of Wanda at Large.

He was former slave Ben in Disney’s live-action 1976 movie Treasure of the Matecumbe. He portrayed flamboyant pimp King George in Jack Hill’s blaxploitation classic Coffy. Other appearances include Fortune Cookie and miniseries How The West Was Won and Centennial.

DoQui portrayed a fanatical religious cult member in Guyana: Crime of the Century, and a short-tempered short-order cook in Miracle Mile. He played a police officer in both Cloak & Dagger and My Science Project. Was that because of his roles in the Robocop trilogy?

He also appeared in three Robert Altman films, “Nashville,” “Buffalo Bill & The Indians” and “Short Cuts,” for which he was part of the Golden Globe and Venice Film Fest award-winning ensemble cast.

DoQui’s distinctive voice kept him on dozens of animated TV shows over his 50-year career. Often in the voice cast of Hanna-Barbera’s The New Scooby-Doo Movies, he was Pablo Robinson in the episodes The Ghostly Creep From The Deep (1972), The Loch Ness Mess (1972) and The Mystery Of Haunted Island (1973). He was credited as “Robert Do Qui” when voicing Robinson in Hanna-Barbera’s The Harlem Globetrotters (1970-71).

He was in the voice cast of the short-lived 1985 H-B series The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians and in the Batman cartoon as well.

He also served for a decade on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild, helping it encourage women and minority groups to participate in the media.

Suzanne Pleshette – Legendary TV and Film Actress

In the late 60’s, Disney would convert their movies over to a Super 8 or 16 mm and rent them out to elementary and high schools for them to raise money. It was a good plan and my little Alabama hometown elementary school did this about once a month. For many it was the only way they would ever see a movie. This was before we had VCRs and DVDs so film was the only way to see these movies.
One film I remember us showing was the 1966 Disney movie ” The Ugly Dachshund .” It is about a Great Dane who thinks he is a Dachshund. The film star Dean Jones who was in most Disney films during that time and a beautiful actress named Suzanne Pleshette.

I had not really discovered girls too much yet but she had an innocence that made her attractive to me.
I took further notice of her when later that year Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” came on TV and I saw that Pleshette was in that 1963 film.With sadness I must report that Suzanne Pleshette has taken her Final Taxi at 70 from lung cancer.

Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city’s High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her deep voice.

She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy “The Golden Fleecing,” and by 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year. (Poston took his Final Taxi in April 2007.)

Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in “The Geisha Boy.”

With her distinct, husky voice and dark good looks, directors and producers quickly took notice of the starlet and she racked up credits on the tube and silver screen. After appearing in a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the master of suspense hired her for a prime part in his hit 1963 horror film The Birds. Her performance as the frustrated school teacher in that film contains subtleties that are worth studying in acting class. She showed so much burning below the surface in her supporting role that the viewer can catch something new upon each new screening.

She also made her Broadway debut in 1961, taking over for Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan opposite Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

During the next 10 years, she mostly plied her trade on the tube, appearing in episodes of Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Gunsmoke, Columbo and Bonanza. Her film credits included “Nevada Smith,” “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” “Fate is the Hunter,” “A Rage to Live,” “The Power,” “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?,” “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” “The Shaggy DA” and “Oh God, Book 2.” Suzanne Pleshette appeared in nearly 130 films, TV shows and documentaries. She appeared on most of the notable TV shows from the 1950s to the present time. Her many TV credits range from “Have Gun, Will Travel” through “Will & Grace” & “8 Simple Rules.”

But it was her role as Emily Hartley, Newhart’s sarcastic, witty school teacher wife on CBS’ The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), that brought Pleshette her greatest fame and earned her two Emmy nominations.

Pleshette reprised her role as Emily for the hilarious surprise ending of the funnyman’s followup sitcom, Newhart, in 1990. Newhart wakes up to find himself in his old sitcom prattling on about a dream he had running a cozy Vermont inn. Critics heralded the twist as one of the smartest finales of all time.

One of the last films she worked with was one of my favorite, both as a role for her and as one of my favorite films of all time. Voicing the animated character of Yubaba ( aka Granny) in Miyazaki’s Oscar winning “Spirited Away” won Suzanne Pleshette a special place in my heart.