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#566 In Memoriam: March 2014 Deaths

April 6, 2014

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 In Memoriam: February 2014 Deaths

April 6, 2014

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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#564 In Memoriam: January 2014 Deaths

April 4, 2014

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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#563 In Memoriam: December 2013 Deaths

April 3, 2014

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 In Memoriam: November 2013 Deaths

December 30, 2013

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 In Memoriam: October 2013 Deaths

November 14, 2013

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 In Memoriam: September 2013 Deaths

October 1, 2013

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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#430 In Memoriam: August 2013 Deaths

September 28, 2013

430 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg106. Karen Black, 74, July 1, 1939 - August 8, 2013:
Actress; American television and movie actress; ampullary cancer

She made her name in the seminal movies, "Easy Rider", in 1969, and "Five Easy Pieces", in 1970, as well as a host of others in the 1970s. She was active in the 80s, 90s, and 00s as well. Her performance in "Five Easy Pieces" earned her a nomination for best supporting actress in 1971.

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#427 In Memoriam: July 2013 Deaths

September 25, 2013

427 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg100. Joe Conley, 85, March 3, 1928 - July 7, 2013:
Actor; American television and movie actor; complications from dementia

Who? Think: Ike Godsey. That's right. He was best known for his portrayal of this character on "The Waltons". He was the local shopkeep and postmaster, and the put-upon husband of the ever-shrewish Corabeth Godsey, a Walton cousin. The actor's face fit the role perfectly to illustrate the hard-bitten life of rural America in the 1930s.

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#424 In Memoriam: June 2013 Deaths

September 22, 2013

424 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpg96. Joey Covington, 67, June 27, 1945 - June 4, 2013:
Musician; American rock drummer; motor vehicle accident

Yeah, I know. You're probably wondering "who the hell is Joey Covington", right? Okay, then, let me hit you with some stream of consciousness: Jefferson Airplane. Hot Tuna. Jefferson Starship. The famous singing drummer. "Volunteers". "With Your Love". Papa John Creach. Yeah, now you know who he is. This guy played in bands that opened for some of the greatest rock acts of the 60s, before becoming an integral part of one himself.

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#421 In Memoriam: May 2013 Deaths

September 19, 2013

421 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpgYeah, I know: I'm falling behind in these posts. And while I would love nothing more than to spend day after day writing and posting, I simply do not have the time. The September Rush is upon me and I seem to be in court, on trial, or in client meetings every day. By the time I'm done, I'm too tired to write.

However, with a trial just settled and the rest of my week filled with light duty, I find that I've got a good chunk of time to write. So here we go ...

We haven't had any obits in a while and there have been a few big names from my childhood and adolescence who have passed on to Sweet Oblivion in the last few months. And here they are:

91. Jeff Hanneman, 49, January 31, 1964 - May 2, 2013:
Musician; American guitarist and founding member of Slayer; liver failure

If you were into thrash and speed metal - and, hey, really, who wasn't, right? - then you knew Slayer. And if you knew Slayer, you knew Jeff Hanneman. One of his best known tunes is "Raining Blood". Play. It. Loud. Thump, thump, thump! Come out and play, ~@#$%^&*()_+! Needless to say, this music never verged on the subtle. So, Jeff, are you in heaven? Or purgatory? Thump, thump, thump!

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#396 In Memoriam: April 2013 Deaths

July 15, 2013

395 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpg88. 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.

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#340 In Memoriam: March 2013 Deaths

April 6, 2013

340 Post-1 Depositphotos_2071841_XS.jpgMarch sure turned out to be a crappy month for rock stars, especially for English rock stars. This month, in addition to a wonderful actress, we lost members from Ten Years After, Yes, Iron Maiden, and the Spinners, together with a session musician that knew and played with everyone who was anyone. And check out how relatively young they all were when they died. Sheesh.

82. Bonnie Franklin, 69, January 6, 1944 - March 1, 2013:
Actress; American actress; pancreatic cancer

Bonnie Franklin played Ann Romano, the hot mother of the hot Barbara Cooper (Valerie Bertinelli) and the hot Julie Cooper (Mackenzie Phillips), who was always trying to avoid the lecherous advances of their apartment building superintendent, Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington, Jr.), in that wonderful television series that was a must to watch, "One Day At A Time", which ran from 1975 to 1984. We learned a lot about sex and drugs and rock and roll from this show. Yes we did.

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#309 In Memoriam: February 2013 Deaths

March 5, 2013

309 Post-1 Depositphotos_5480853_XS.jpg74. Edward Irving "Ed" Koch, 88, December 12, 1924 - February 1, 2013:
Politician; American attorney, U.S. Representative, mayor of New York City; congestive heart failure

Love him or hate him, no one was more representative of New York City (both the good and the bad) than Ed Koch. There was definitely an Upstate-Downstate dynamic to Ed Koch. While Downstaters may have loved him, we Upstaters more often saw him as the putz with the chutzpah; a man who exuded Downstate arrogance but who nonetheless had the brass to actually pull it off.

We loved him: he dug down deep and remade New York City after the disastrous term of the prior mayor, Abe Beame, who brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

We hated him: he allegedly balked at running for governor in part because he felt that there were simply no decent Chinese restaurants in the wilds of the Greater Capital Region. I'm sure this was merely attributed to Koch, since even Koch wouldn't have been so unbelievably tone-deaf, being the superb politician that he was. Still, it hit a raw nerve amongst us Upstaters.

Later in life, he seemed to have lost his mind, especially in his bizarre support of George Bush's second election.

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#279 In Memoriam: January 2013 Deaths

February 3, 2013

279 Post-1 Depositphotos_2695492_XS.jpg70. Clara Ann "Patti Page" Fowler, 85, November 8, 1927 - January 1, 2013:
Musician; American singer; natural causes

While her signature tune was "Tennessee Waltz", she first shot to fame with the song "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming". She had a string of hits in the 50s, such as the number one singles: "All My Love (Bolero)", "I Went To Your Wedding", and the novelty song that will make you wish you were deaf, "(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window?" Her hits continued in the 60s with "Old Cape Cod", "Allegheny Moon", "A Poor Man's Roses (Or A Rich Man's Gold)", and "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte".

I think my parents have every one of these recordings.

She was born into abject poverty and helped her family earn a living by picking cotton as a girl. She had a beautiful voice and became a featured singer on a local radio station in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1946. She would come to the attention of other musicians, tour with a small band, and ultimately sing with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, thereafter landing a record contract. And the rest is history.

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