You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2011.
Golden Girls Theme Song Writer Andrew Gold Dies
By Dahvi Shira
Monday June 06, 2011 03:30 PM EDT
Andrew Gold, the singer-songwriter best known for 1977′s “Lonely Boy” single, died Friday in his sleep from a heart attack. He was 59.
That song was heard in films such as Boogie Nights and Water Boy. Another song, “Thank You for Being a Friend,” was heard on TV each week for almost a decade as the theme song for The Golden Girls.
Gold was also known for his late ’70s tune, “Do Wah Diddy.”
The L.A. native began writing songs at age 13. By the early 1970s, he was working as a musician, songwriter and record producer. He was a member of the Los Angeles band Bryndle. In 1975, Gold set out on a solo career and released four albums during that decade.
The year 1975 also marked Gold’s successful collaboration with Art Garfunkel. He played all the instruments on Garfunkel’s No. 1 UK hit, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
Aside from Garfunkel, Gold also worked with or produced music for artists including Cher, Brian Wilson, Don Henley, Celine Dion and members of the Beatles.
He is survived by his wife and three daughters.
Disney legends die within a day of each otherBy CHRISTOPHER WEBER, Associated Press Christopher Weber, Associated Press – Sun Jun 5, 4:53 pm ET
ANAHEIM, Calif. – They shared a stage at Disneyland five days a week for nearly three decades and died within a day of each other.
Betty Taylor, who played Slue Foot Sue in Disney’s long-running Golden Horseshoe Revue, passed away Saturday — one day after the death of Wally Boag, who played her character’s sweetheart, Pecos Bill.
The 91-year-old Taylor died at her home in Washington state, Disneyland announced on its web site. Boag, who was 90, died Friday. He was a resident of Santa Monica, Calif.
The causes of death were not announced and attempts to contact relatives for comment were not immediately successful.
“Betty’s role as leading lady in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue helped turn it into the longest-running stage show in entertainment history,” George Kalogridis, the president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement. `’It is a tragic coincidence that her passing comes just one day after the death of longtime co-star Wally Boag.”
Boag, a former vaudeville performer, signed a two-week contract with Walt Disney in 1955. He originated the role of Pecos Bill in the revue, taking the stage three times a day and logging nearly 40,000 performances before retiring in 1982.
Most of those shows were alongside Taylor, who joined the revue a year after Hoag. Her run on the show — which closed in 1986 — lasted nearly 45,000 performances.
The Golden Horseshoe Revue is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running stage production in show business history.
“Wally was instrumental in the development of live entertainment during the early years of both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World Resort,” Kalogridis said. “His characters will continue to live in the hearts of our guests, while his larger-than-life personality will forever make him the true Clown Prince of Disneyland.”
Boag’s comedic timing influenced generations of performers, including actor Steve Martin, who called Boag his “hero.” Martin tweeted Saturday that Boag was “the first comedian I ever saw live, my influence, a man to whom I aspired.”
Boag and Taylor both appeared on television in “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.”
And before joining Disney, Boag appeared in a number of films during the 1940s, including “Without Love,” starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and “The Thrill of Romance,” with Esther Williams.
He later appeared in Disney films such as “The Absent-Minded Professor,” “Son of Flubber” and “The Love Bug.”
Born in Seattle, Taylor began taking dance lessons at age 3. At 14, she sang and danced in nightclubs across the country, and by 18, led her own band called Betty and Her Beaus, which included 16 male musicians and appeared regularly at the Trianon Ballroom in Seattle.
In 1956, while living in Los Angeles and performing as a drum player with a musical group, Taylor heard about auditions for a song-and-dance job at Disneyland. She got the gig, which she held for 30 years, leading to appearances on a USO tour of Greenland and Newfoundland and a show for President Richard Nixon and his family in The White House.
She performed at the park until 1987, but continued to appear in special events, such as Walt Disney’s Wild West, a 1995 retrospective at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles.
James Arness of ‘Gunsmoke’ fame dead at 88By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer Frazier Moore, Ap Television Writer – Fri Jun 3, 6:37 pm ET
It takes a special kind of lawman to carry on for 20 years in the Wild West of TV.
Matt Dillon, the mythical marshal of Dodge City, stood tall — all 6 feet, 6 inches of him — on “Gunsmoke” from 1955 to 1975. He outlasted dozens of other Western heroes while making history on TV’s longest-running dramatic series, a record that held until NBC’s “Law & Order” tied the CBS Western’s record in 2010.
Through all those gunslinging years, James Arness, who died Friday, kept Marshal Dillon righteous, peace-seeking and, most of all, believable.
Fickle viewers can kill a TV hero as surely as a bullet from an outlaw’s six-gun. But Arness knew how to maintain order not only in circa-1870s Dodge City, but also among the TV audience, whose itchy fingers on their channel changers he knew how to calm.
In an era when TV actors typically chewed the scenery, Arness had a credible, commanding presence by hardly uttering a word. A typical scene found a dozen cowboys riding up to the town jail intent on busting out a prisoner pal.
Dillon faces them all down.
“The first move anybody makes,” he says, with a slight shake of his head, “I cut you in two.”
Arness’ defiant but rueful delivery is so understated, he makes Clint Eastwood seem like a loudmouth.
No wonder “Gunsmoke” wore so well. And became the last word on a programming craze that some seasons found as many as 30 Westerns on the air. When “Gunsmoke” went off in 1975, it was the only Western left.
By the end of his career, Arness, who was 88 when he died at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, seemed almost indistinguishable from Matt Dillon in the audience’s mind.
Befitting Marshal Dillon’s dignity and composure, Arness wrote, and left behind, a simple, straight-from-the-heart farewell which, at his request, was posted posthumously Friday on his official website.
“I had a wonderful life and was blessed with … (so) many loving people and great friends,” he said, then went on to thank his multitude of fans.
In life, Arness was a quiet, intensely private man who preferred the outdoor life to Hollywood’s party scene, rarely gave interviews, and refused to discuss his personal tragedies (his daughter and his former wife, Virginia, both died of drug overdoses).
“He’s big, impressive and virile,” co-star Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty) once said of Arness, adding, “I’ve worked with him for 16 years, but I don’t really know him.”
The actor was 32 when friend John Wayne declined the lead role in “Gunsmoke” and recommended Arness instead. Afraid of being typecast, Arness initially rejected it.
“Go ahead and take it, Jim,” Wayne urged him. “You’re too big for pictures. Guys like Gregory Peck and I don’t want a big lug like you towering over us. Make your mark in television.”
Then Wayne filmed an introduction for the first episode of “Gunsmoke” to give the largely unknown Arness the proper send-off.
“I predict he’ll be a big star,” Wayne told viewers. “So you might as well get used to him, like you’ve had to get used to me.”
Arness’ 20-year, prime-time run as the marshal was tied only in recent times, by Kelsey Grammer’s 20 years as Frasier Crane from 1984 to 2004 on “Cheers” and then on “Frasier.”
The years showed on the weathered-looking Arness, but he — and his TV character — wore them well.
“The camera really loved his face, and with good reason,” novelist Wallace Markfield wrote in a 1975 “Gunsmoke” appreciation in The New York Times. “It was a face that would age well and that, while aging, would carry intimations of waste, loss and futility.”
Born James Aurness in Minneapolis (he dropped the “u” for show business reasons), he and younger brother Peter enjoyed a “real Huckleberry Finn existence,” Arness once recalled.
Peter, who changed his last name to Graves, went on to star in the TV series “Mission Impossible.” (He died in 2010.)
A self-described drifter, Arness left home at age 18, hopping freight trains and Caribbean-bound freighters. He entered Beloit College in Wisconsin, but was drafted into the Army in his 1942-43 freshman year. Wounded in the leg during the 1944 invasion at Anzio, Italy, Arness was hospitalized for a year and left with a slight limp. He returned to Minneapolis to work as a radio announcer and in small theater roles.
He moved to Hollywood in 1946 at a friend’s suggestion. After a slow start in which he took jobs as a carpenter and salesman, a role in MGM’s “Battleground” (1949) was a career turning point. Parts in more than 20 films followed, including “The Thing,” “Hellgate” and “Hondo” with Wayne. Then came “Gunsmoke,” which proved a durable hit and a multimillion-dollar boon for Arness, who owned part of the series.
His longtime co-stars were Blake as saloon keeper Miss Kitty, Milburn Stone as Doc Adams, Dennis Weaver as the deputy, Chester Goode, and his replacement, Ken Curtis, as Deputy Festus Haggen.
The cancellation of “Gunsmoke” didn’t keep Arness away from TV for long: He returned a few months later, in January 1976, in the TV movie “The Macahans,” which led to the 1978-79 ABC series “How the West Was Won.”
Arness took on a contemporary role as a police officer in the series “McClain’s Law,” which aired on NBC from 1981-82.
Despite his desire for privacy, a rocky domestic life landed him in the news more than once.
Arness met future wife Virginia Chapman while both were studying at Southern California’s Pasadena Playhouse. They wed in 1948 and had two children, Jenny and Rolf. Chapman’s son from her first marriage, Craig, was adopted by Arness.
The marriage foundered and in 1963 Arness sought a divorce and custody of the three children, which he was granted. He tried to guard them from the spotlight.
“The kids don’t really have any part of my television life,” he once remarked. “Fortunately, there aren’t many times when show business intrudes on our family existence.”
The emotionally troubled Virginia Arness attempted suicide twice, in 1959 and in 1960. In 1975, Jenny Arness died of an apparently deliberate drug overdose. Two years later, an overdose that police deemed accidental killed her mother.
AP Television Writer David Bauder and Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York, and Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
well, some death.
Kevorkian’s audacious attitude set him apart
DETROIT – Jack Kevorkian built his suicide machine with parts gathered from flea markets and stashed it in a rusty Volkswagen van.
But it was Kevorkian’s audacious attitude that set him apart in the debate over doctor-assisted suicide. The retired pathologist who said he oversaw the deaths of 130 gravely ill people burned state orders against him, showed up at court in costume and dared authorities to stop him or make his actions legal. He didn’t give up until he was sent to prison.
The 83-year-old Kevorkian died Friday at a Michigan hospital without seeking the kind of “planned death” that he once offered to others. He insisted suicide with the help of a medical professional was a civil right.
His gaunt, hollow-cheeked appearance gave him a ghoulish, almost cadaverous look and helped earn him the nickname “Dr. Death.” But Kevorkian likened himself to Martin Luther King and Gandhi and called physicians who didn’t support him “hypocritic oafs.”
“Somebody has to do something for suffering humanity,” he once said. “I put myself in my patients’ place. This is something I would want.”
Kevorkian jabbed his finger in the air as he publicly mocked politicians and religious leaders. He was a magnet for the news media, once talking to reporters with his head and wrists restrained in a medieval-style stock.
His efforts put the medical establishment in knots: Here was a doctor admitting he had helped people die and urging others in the profession to do the same.
Kevorkian died at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where he had been hospitalized since May 18 with pneumonia and kidney problems. He suffered from a blood clot that traveled up from his leg, according to attorney Mayer Morganroth, who was present and said his friend was “totally in peace, not in pain.”
“His medical directive was not to be given any CPR or continuing life program.” Morganroth said.
Kevorkian’s flamboyant former attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, believes Kevorkian would have taken advantage of doctor-assisted suicide if it had been available.
“If he had enough strength to do something about it, he would have,” Fieger said Friday. “Had he been able to go home, Jack Kevorkian probably would not have allowed himself to go back to the hospital.”
The former prosecutor whose office convicted Kevorkian of second-degree murder said he found a trace of hypocrisy in Kevorkian’s death.
“I assumed that someday he’d commit suicide and tape it and air it for the world to see,” said David Gorcyca, who oversaw prosecutions in the Detroit suburbs of Oakland County
Despite Kevorkian’s relentless efforts in the 1990s, few states made physician-assisted suicide legal. Laws took effect in Oregon in 1997 and Washington state in 2009, and a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized the practice in that state.
L. Brooks Patterson, another former prosecutor and the county executive in Oakland County, described Kevorkian as an “affable guy” but said his tactics hurt his cause.
“I don’t think he was the right ambassador to represent the issue,” Patterson said. “It was the law be damned with him. The issue would have been better debated in a more serious arena than in the back of Jack’s van. … It was a sideshow. Helping people commit suicide in the back of a van is not dying with dignity.”
Those who sought Kevorkian’s help typically suffered from cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis or paralysis.
He catapulted into the public eye in 1990 when he used his machine to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer’s patient. He often left the bodies at emergency rooms or motels.
For much of the decade, he escaped legal efforts to stop him. His first four trials, all on assisted-suicide charges, resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. Murder charges in Kevorkian’s first cases were thrown out because Michigan had no law against assisted suicide. The Legislature wrote one in response. He also was stripped of his medical license.
Devotees filled courtrooms wearing “I Back Jack” buttons. Critics questioned his headline-grabbing methods, which were aided by Fieger, until the two parted ways before the 1999 trial in which he was sent to prison for eight years.
“The issue’s got to be raised to the level where it is finally decided,” Kevorkian said during a broadcast of CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired the videotaped death of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He challenged prosecutors to charge him again, and they obliged with second-degree murder charges.
Kevorkian acted as his own lawyer. In his closing argument, he said some acts “by sheer common sense are not crimes.”
“Just look at me,” he told jurors. “Honestly now, do you see a criminal? Do you see a murderer?”
Kevorkian’s ultimate goal was to establish “obitoriums” where people would go to die. Doctors there could harvest organs and perform medical experiments during the suicide process. Such experiments would be “entirely ethical spinoffs” of suicide, he wrote in his 1991 book “Prescription: Medicide — The Goodness of Planned Death.”
In a rare televised interview from prison in 2005, Kevorkian told MSNBC he regretted “a little” the actions that put him there.
“It was disappointing because what I did turned out to be in vain. … And my only regret was not having done it through the legal system, through legislation, possibly,” he said.
Kevorkian was freed in June 2007 after serving eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence. His lawyers said he suffered from hepatitis C, diabetes and other problems, and Kevorkian promised in affidavits that he would not assist in any more suicides if released.
Tina Allerellie became a fierce critic after her 34-year-old sister, Karen Shoffstall, turned to Kevorkian in 1997. She said Shoffstall, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was struggling with depression and fear but could have lived for years longer.
Kevorkian’s intent “has always been to gain notoriety,” Allerellie said in 2007.
In 2008, Kevorkian ran for Congress as an independent, receiving just 2.7 percent of the vote in his suburban Detroit district. He said his experience showed the party system was “corrupt” and “has to be completely overhauled.”
Born in 1928, in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, Kevorkian graduated from the University of Michigan’s medical school in 1952 and went into pathology.
He said he first became interested in euthanasia during his internship year when he watched a middle-aged woman die of cancer. She was so emaciated, her sagging, discolored skin “covered her bones like a cheap, wrinkled frock,” Kevorkian wrote.
On June 4, 1990, he drove his van to a secluded park north of Detroit. After the Alzheimer’s patient, 54-year-old Janet Adkins of Portland, Ore., met him there, he inserted a needle into her arm. When she was ready, she flipped the switch that began a flow of lethal drugs.
He later switched from his device to canisters of carbon monoxide, again insisting patients take the final step by removing a clamp that released the deadly gas to a face mask.
Kevorkian’s life story became the subject of the 2010 HBO movie “You Don’t Know Jack,” which earned actor Al Pacino Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for his portrayal of Kevorkian. Pacino paid tribute to Kevorkian during his Emmy acceptance speech and recognized the former doctor, who sat smiling in the audience.
Pacino said during the speech that it was a pleasure to “try to portray someone as brilliant and interesting and unique” as Kevorkian and a “pleasure to know him.”
Kevorkian himself said he liked the movie and enjoyed the attention it generated. But he doubted it would inspire much action by a new generation of assisted-suicide advocates.
“You’ll hear people say, `Well, it’s in the news again, it’s time for discussing this further.’ No, it isn’t. It’s been discussed to death,” he told The Associated Press. “There’s nothing new to say about it. It’s a legitimate, ethical medical practice as it was in ancient Rome and Greece.”
Kevorkian’s fame also made him fodder for late-night comedians’ monologues and sitcoms. His name became cultural shorthand for jokes about hastening the end of life.
Even admirers couldn’t resist. Adam Mazer, the Emmy-winning writer for “You Don’t Know Jack,” got off one of the best lines of the 2010 Emmy telecast.
“I’m grateful you’re my friend,” Mazer said, looking out at Kevorkian. “I’m even more grateful you’re not my physician.”
Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub, John Flesher and Randi Berris contributed to this report.
Clarice Taylor of ‘The Cosby Show’ dies at 93
Taylor died of congestive heart failure in her home in Englewood, N.J., on Monday, said her son, William Taylor.
During a career that spanned five decades, Taylor performed on radio and TV, in film and on stage, including in the original Broadway cast of the musical “The Wiz.”
Her films included the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller “Play Misty for Me” and, besides “The Cosby Show,” she had another recurring TV role on “Sesame Street,” where she was grandmother to the character David.
Both Taylor and Earle Hyman, who played her husband on “The Cosby Show,” received Emmy nominations in 1986 for their roles as Anna and Russell Huxtable, parents of Bill Cosby’s character and grandparents of the Huxtable youngsters.
While touring with “The Wiz,” she roomed with Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife on the “The Cosby Show.” She told The Associated Press in a 1987 interview that she decided to audition to play Rashad’s mother.
“I spent three hours making up my face and putting on my tight clothes,” Taylor said. “I didn’t want to look too old to be her mother.”
She didn’t get the part.
Later, however, she was asked to audition for the part of Cosby’s mother. “I put on a gray wig, a bandana over that, flat-heeled shoes and a long dress with no shape to it,” she told the AP. “Bill saw through my act. I read five lines and he said, ‘If you’re going to go through all of this – you’ve got the part.’”
In 1987, she played the pioneering black female comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley in an original off-Broadway play, “Moms,” with future “Law & Order” regular S. Epatha Merkerson also in the cast. Taylor later toured as Mabley in a one-woman show.
She also played the role of Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, in the stage version of “The Wiz,” which opened in 1975.
Taylor began her acting career with Harlem’s American Negro Theatre, and in the late 1960s was one of the original members of the New York-based Negro Ensemble Company.
Born Sept. 20, 1917, in Buckingham County, Va., she grew up in Harlem, where she skipped school to watch the sassy comedian Moms Mabley perform at the Apollo Theater.
Taylor told the AP she portrayed Mabley in “Moms” because she was determined that the world not forget her.
“She was so special and so wonderful,” she said in the 1987 interview. “Here’s a black woman born in the last century who made a living at her craft. She never cleaned house or picked cotton. She went through a lot but she stuck with it.”
Taylor is survived by two sons, William and James, and four grandchildren.
Funeral details were pending.