Articles Posted in In Memoriam

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617 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpgSorry for the lack of blog posts of late. Professional obligations and an illness kept me from posting much in June. Hopefully, with the holiday weekend soon upon us, I can get back into the swing of things.

Some months, there seem to be a handful of musicians that leave us. This month, it’s mostly actors.

145. Ann B. Davis, 88, May 5, 1926 – June 1, 2014:
Actress; American television actress; subdural hematoma after a fall
Alice has died! No, not that Alice. The Alice from “The Brady Bunch”. And if you have to ask what “The Brady Bunch” is, then there’s simply no help for you. If you grew up in the 60s and 70s, then you grew up watching this show religiously. She obviously appeared in other shows, but she ultimately got typecast as Alice. Here’s something about her that I did not know: she was born right here in Schenectady (though her family later moved to Erie, Pennsylvania).
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616 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpgI realize that most of my “heroes” were men. But that doesn’t mean that none of them were women. However, for the time being, as James Brown might say, it’s a man’s world, like it or not. And, if you haven’t already noticed, as a kid I probably watched way too much television and listened to thousands of hours of music. That’s right: my heroes tend to be of the celluloid or jukebox persuasion.

140. Jessica Cleaves, 65, December 10, 1948 – May 2, 2014:
Musician; American vocalist and songwriter; unknown
She was the one of the vocalists of the group The Friends of Distinction, most famous for their hit, “Grazing In The Grass”, from 1969. Once the group disbanded, in 1975, Cleaves joined Earth, Wind and Fire, just as the band was hitting its peak with songs like “Shining Star”. From there, she moved on to perform with the amazing and outrageous Parliament-Funkadelic.
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565 Post-6 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpgWe’ve got a handful of people who left us in April. For me, the biggest surprise was Bob Hoskins, who seems to have died too young. In 2014, 71 is not very old in the overall scheme of things. Aside from Mickey Rooney and Bob Hoskins, the other three personalities are probably not well-known to most. But they made their own marks nonetheless.

135. Mickey Rooney, 93, September 23, 1920 – April 6, 2014:
Actor; American actor; natural causes
Here’s yet another person who, had I not known better, I would have sworn was already dead. Allegedly, this man was the very last of the vaudevillians, having started his career at the age of six in 1926. Having peaked early in life, in 1939, he was nonetheless a Hollywood survivor. He was also a man who was a star’s star, beloved and admired by many of his fellow actors. I first came to notice and love him, as a kid, from watching many an old movie on rainy weekends. I also loved him as Dingy Bell in that craziest of movies, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, from 1963.
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Only one obituary for March, which is odd.

566 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg134. David Brenner, 78, February 4, 1936 – March 15, 2014:
Comedian; American comedian; cancer
I remember this guy from his many, many appearances on “The Tonight Show”, back when Johnny Carson ruled the roost. I never knew that he originally started out in life as a director and producer of over 100 documentaries, which is pretty much all that he did in the 60s. By the late 60s, he jumped right into comedy and he seemed to be everywhere on television in the 70s. His humor was infectious and he was one of my favorite “clean” comedians back then, though the “dirty” comedians – George Carlin and Richard Pryor – kicked his ass seven ways to Sunday.

If you remember his routines, you realize that he was a huge influence on latter-day comedians like Richard Lewis and, especially, Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Seinfeld carried the arc of Brenner’s comedy to its ultimate conclusion in the form of a sitcom spanning nine seasons which was all about nothing in particular – and funny as all hell.

Actually, truth be told, I thought Brenner died a few years ago. Guess I was wrong.
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565 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg128. Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014:
Actor; American movie actor; heroin overdose
Checking out of this world lying in a drug-induced stupor on the bathroom floor with a needle in my arm is not exactly the way I would choose to go. But, if I were a closet junkie, I suspect it would be a good possibility in the overall scheme of things.

This one is sad and @#$%ing stupid. What an idiot.

He first appeared on my radar in 1992’s “Scent Of A Woman” in an unmemorable turn as the prickish student who spills his guts. He turned up again, in 1993’s “Money For Nothing”, once again as a prick. By this point, I had him pegged as a character actor who was great at playing pricks. Then came 1996’s “Twister” where he played the lovable psycho storm chaser sidekick to Bill Paxton’s character. Clearly, I had underestimated him.

And then came “Boogie Nights”, in 1997, a Mark Walhberg showcase. This movie was as disturbing as it was amazing. And Hoffman’s acting was stellar as the gay boom director who is secretly in love with Mark Wahlberg’s character. I finally realized that this was a guy to watch after I saw him again in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in 1999, yet another disturbing movie (and Matt Damon showcase).
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Only three obituaries for January.

564 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg126. Russell Johnson, 89, November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014:
Actor; American movie and television actor; kidney failure
Now, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale … say goodbye to the Professor. He served honorably as a bombardier in B-52s in the U.S. Army Air Force, in the Pacific Theatre, in World War II, flying 44 combat missions. He mustered out as a first lieutenant, and went to acting school on the G.I. Bill.

From there, he became friends with Audie Murphy and began a career in westerns and science fiction. And, of course, he was ultimately typecast as the Professor, on “Gilligan’s Island”, a character so brilliant that he couldn’t figure out how to get off that damned island for three whole seasons. But, why leave when you could remain forever in the company of Ginger and Mary Ann?

After his role as the Professor, he appeared in cameos in any number of television shows.
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Yeah, I’ve been a bit lazy in getting these particular posts up. I realized this over the weekend. So, of course, I had to go back over the last several months of obits to see who died. Quite a few, actually.

563 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpg120. Richard Coughlan, 66, September 2, 1947 – December 1, 2013: Musician; English drummer; pneumonia
Dude was the drummer for one of the earliest kick-ass progressive rock bands, Caravan (nee The Wilde Flowers), which got its start way back in 1968. He had a choice: become a dentist and play in peoples’ mouths all day or become a drummer and play gigs for the rest of his life. In retrospect, it seems like an obvious choice. However, he gave up a good paying job for one in which he would likely live hand-to-mouth. Of course, he got lucky. When progressive rock hit the skids, in the early 1980s, he decided to go into the business of managing pubs.
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509 Post-1 Depositphotos_5480853_XS.jpg118. Doris Lessing, 94, October 22, 1919 – November 17, 2013:
Writer; British novelist, poet, and short story writer; natural causes
Some writers you are force-fed in grade school. Others you stumble upon, quite by accident. Lessing is the latter, probably because The Powers That Be weren’t about to allow into the classroom a woman who had an early flirtation with communism and who openly and vehemently condemned nuclear arms and apartheid. In short, she was a rebel. And, as a general rule, one doesn’t learn about rebels in school.

I credit discovering this writer to a feminist professor in college, who simply adored Lessing. She pressed a copy into my hands saying “You must read this!” That was back in the mid-80s. After many attempts on her masterpiece, “The Golden Notebook“, I ultimately gave up. Of course, she later won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. As I’ve gotten older, I seem to bump into more and more people who hold her (and particularly this novel) in high regard. Maybe I’ll have to make another attempt.
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490 Post-1 Depositphotos_5480853_XS.jpg115. Tom Clancy, 66, April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013:
Writer; American novelist; undisclosed illness
I read his first novel, “The Hunt For Red October“, in 1984, in college, and loved it, despite its obvious love affair with conservative American politics throughout (yeah, definitely NOT a good thing). It’s a better tale than it is right-wing propaganda, which one cannot honestly state with regard to his succeeding novels. In his second novel – also a ripping yarn – “Red Storm Rising“, from 1986, Clancy’s nostalgia for the Cold War became obvious and more of his politics seeped into the work. By the time I reached his sixth novel, “The Sum Of All Fears“, in 1991, the story-telling had become formulaic and the propaganda had become laughable. So, naturally, I stopped reading him. Apparently he published another fourteen novels after this, having become a reliable publishing brand à la Stephen King. St. Ronnie Raygun loved him, which should have been the kiss of death but, instead, was accepted as high praise by the writer himself. Uh-huh. ‘Nuff said.

Still, I will say this: when adapted for the big screen, it seems that all of his novels are truly kick-ass. That’s gotta count for something.
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433 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpg114. Lindsay Cooper, 62, March 3, 1951 – September 18, 2013:
Musician; English rock bassoonist and oboeist; multiple sclerosis
Yes, rock bassoonist and oboeist. I assure you that they do exist, though they can probably be counted on both hands. In this instance, Cooper played with the wildly avant-garde progressive rock group Henry Cow (definitely an acquired taste), from 1973, on and off until 1978. She later collaborated with other avant-garde artists until her illness prevented her from performing.

I saw her obit on an obscure website and it caused a cascade of hysterically funny memories, mostly of me driving my parents bat!@#$ crazy with my musical tastes.
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