88. Annette Funicello, 70, October 22, 1942 – April 8, 2012:
Actress; American actress and singer; complications from multiple sclerosis
My parents knew her from the original Mickey Mouse Club. I knew her from her peanut butter commercials, as she tried her best to make her pitch for Skippy. However, everyone knew that “Choosy moms choose Jif!”
She was the last person picked for the Mickey Mouse Club and by none other than Walt Disney himself. He allegedly “discovered” her at a dance recital. While under contract to Disney, she co-starred in a number of Disney films and recorded a number of pop record hits in the 50s and 60s.
She then made the jump from Disney to her string of teen idol “beach party” movies with Frankie Avalon in the early 60s.
Her commercials with Skippy came next, starting in 1979.
89. Jonathan Winters, 87, November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013:
Comedian; American comedian, actor, artist, and author; natural causes
Okay, let me start out by stating that I rarely found this man to be funny. Strange and perhaps a bit mental? Oh, yeah. For the life of me, I simply could not figure out why the people of my parents’ generation thought this man was the least bit funny. Nevertheless, I found him to be howlingly funny when he assumed some bizarre character – and stayed in character. Check out his role in the early cult classic “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” from 1963. I don’t know what it was but I think it had to be the combination of his incredibly rubbery facial features, his wide range of sound effects, his delivery, and his sometimes bizarre personality tics. He delivered another interesting performance in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, from 1966.
He was largely introduced to my generation through “Mork And Mindy”, the show that would ultimately inflict Robin Williams on the world. Of course, it didn’t help matters that by the time Jonathan Winters appeared on the show (in its fourth season) it was already circling the drain. Worse: Winters was cast as the child of the now-married Mork and Mindy. To understand the premise, you had to see the show. The chemistry did not seem to work and the show never saw a fifth season.
While he never seemed to have a permanent place anywhere in Hollywood, he was nonetheless seen almost everywhere, guest-starring in countless shows. I especially remember him as being particularly off his rocker on “The Hollywood Squares”.
Winters also had a huge career in comedy albums and was not above being a pitchman himself, for Utica Club, in the late 50s and early 60s, and Hefty.
90. Allan Arbus, 95, February 15, 1918 – April 19, 2013:
Actor; American actor; congestive heart failure
The only role I remember this man being in was nevertheless one which made a lasting impression on me. He starred as Major Sidney Freedman, the psychiatrist on M*A*S*H. Every now and then, I’d catch him in a cameo in another series, but his other characters never stood out the way his M*A*S*H character did.