Showing posts with label passing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label passing. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Norman Lear Merges With The Infinite

Norman Lear, a man who changed television, has passed at 101.

There's whole areas of media study dedicated to Lear, so I won't get into it too much here.  But for those of us growing up as kids in the 1970s and 80's, there was kind of pre-Lear television and post-Lear television.  Those halcyon days of media you think of where father knew best and folks' disagreements were settled over a polite laugh or gunfire and women wore pearls and kissed husbands as they walked in the door with a smile?  Not Norman Lear.

Lear found the comedy in the reality of world and knew you could do more making people laugh than you could with a lecture, reflecting real world issues back to the audience, in the format of the sitcom.  As a kid, I remember knowing things could take a dramatic turn on One Day at a Time (something the reboot series echoed), but it wasn't off-putting even as a kid.  It was part of how television worked, as far as I was concerned.

While he moved on from TV, Lear has remained influential.  I hope in years to come, folks understand what he did to move TV on from its juvenile state and propel conversations onto the screen and into living rooms, and giving voice to characters that had been supporting characters at best.

Here's to 101 well-lived years. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Richard Roundtree Merges With the Infinite

Actor Richard Roundtree has passed at 81.  Like many 90's-era college kids, I know Roundtree from Shaft, which is not just a great score, it's a phenomenal detective/ crime movie.  If you've not seen it, Roundtree is amazing in the film.

Roundtree had an amazing career, and for the past few decades kept very busy, with a terrific diversity of roles to his credit, sliding into whatever part he was offered.  I know he's one of those actors I say "oh, hell, that's Richard Roundtree" when he'd show up on screen, but you never knew where he'd pop up.  

He should be remembered for all that, but the impact of Shaft as a film and cultural phenomenon can't be underestimated, and while the soundtrack might have carried on, it was Roundtree as the tough-as-nails, smarter-than-the-rest leading man in the movie that gave it enduring appeal. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Piper Laurie Merges With The Infinite

Star or movies and television, Piper Laurie, has passed.  

We know Laurie primarily from Twin Peaks, Carrie and The Hustler.  

Laurie was a Civil Rights advocate and involved in numerous causes.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Phyllis Coates Merges With the Infinite

Coates appeared only in the first season of The Adventures of Superman from 1952 and the film, Superman and the Mole Men.  

I am a fan of all Loises, and as part of the legion of Loises, Ms. Coates folds a special place here at The Signal Watch.  Her Lois was quite a bit different from Noel Neill's take.  Coates tended to play a bit more into the streetwise, tough newspaper writer persona that would circle back around with some other actors to play the part.  

She left pretty quickly, but one does not play Lois and not get included in the Superman mythos.  As is the tradition, she returned to a different incarnation of Superman, appearing on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the first year as Lois' mother, Ellen Lane.

Of course, Coates was infinitely more than her brief Superman appearances.  She has 145 appearances listed on IMDB, and spanned 50 years in the business (including a lengthy break).  

Let's salute Ms. Coates and remember her for being a terrific part of the Superman legacy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Keith Giffen Merges With the Infinite

Comics legend Keith Giffen has passed.  

I can't begin to quantify how much an impact Giffen had on the industry and on me as a reader.

I knew Giffen first as one of the talents on the famed mid-80's Justice League America and I am the guy who still thinks we all dropped the ball not making The Heckler a top seller.  

He's responsible for so, so many characters and stories that make up the DCU, with amazing runs on Legion of Super-Heroes and innumerable other titles.  If Giffen's name was on it, it was worth checking out.  Just last week I was pricing a collection of his Doom Patrol on eBay. 

I'll just drop this wikipedia link here, because it's just way too much for me to repeat here.  The man was a giant, and responsible for countless ideas, many of which are the best at multiple comics publishers.  He gave us worlds upon worlds.  

I'm finding myself surprisingly shaken by Giffen's passing. He was one of the pros I always wanted to meet, and he was just in Austin, but I didn't make it to the Con.  I am sure the industry is going to be in deep mourning this week as folks say goodbye to their friend and inspiration.

Y'all take a minute to remember Mr. Giffen and all he brought to these worlds and this medium we love.


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Arleen Sorkin Merges With The Infinite

Actor and voice actor Atleen Sorkin has passed.

When Batman: The Animated Series premiered back in the early 1990's, I was a skeptical Bat-reader, but literally by the end of the credits, I was in.  By the time I saw Batman getting dragged behind Man-Bat through the skyline of Gotham, I was out of my mind.  In many ways, I think the show is the epitome of Batman as a concept, but it also went beyond adapting a comic and movie concept to a cartoon, it restored and built upon the decades of Bat-mythology.  And chief among those addition was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka: Harley Quinn.  

We're still reeling from that addition.  And brought to brilliant life through writing, art, animation and the unforgettable voice of Arleen Sorkin.  

Sorkin was probably best known as an actress as Calliope Jones on Days of Our Lives, where she appeared for decades across hundreds of episodes.  

 As much as comic characters could be identified by their silhouettes, cartoon characters need to be specific and memorable to really work - and that was something voice director Andrea Romano brought to fore with BTAS.  But with Harley Quinn, they'd found absolute gold in Sorkin. 

A face of a Bat-villain might drive a certain thought process, but Harley was new, an invention of the show, and maybe the logical extrapolation of what the difference is between comics and animation - suddenly you can do new things with a voice alone.   For comic fans and Batman fans, Sorkin's voice and character would be the magical ingredient.  A kind of Brooklyn-ese taken to extremes.  Funny, crazy, a little sad.  High energy, with the potential for violence.  A crack in the voice here or there could say it all.  An octave jump something else.  

Anyway, as soon as the show hit and Harley appeared, the doors of fandom were thrown wide open to Harley as a new addition, and she was soon appearing in comics as well as the show.  If there was resistance by die-hard Batfans, those voices were drowned out.  Harley became so popular, DC eventually realized they had to transform her.  No more chasing after a killer clown, seeking his love.  She'd become a sort of agent of chaos within the DCU, sometimes on the side of the angels, and sometimes... less so.

The voice of Harley by Sorkin would go on to survive art changes, changes in leadership in WB animation, and make the jump to video games.  She's the voice you hear in your head when reading the comics, and what Margot Robbie borrowed across three feature films as a live-action version of the character.  

Like Kevin Conroy before her, she passed way too young.  But she also will have left millions of people with the memory of her voice, instantly recognizable, and which will be imitated by others for decades to come.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Bob Barker Merges With the Infinite

Bob Barker - the man, the myth, the pal for millions of us having a sick day from school or work - has passed at the age of 99.  

Not a soul in America living in the back quarter of the 20th Century hadn't seen Barker at one point or another, appearing daily on The Price is Right, possibly America's real favorite game show.  Among a hundred different games on the program, and surrounded by "Barker's Beauties", Bob was our genial uncle, walking contestants through the motions and managing chaos with a light chuckle, a peculiarly thin microphone and a voice gifted by the gods. 

Barker was a kind of gentlemen that no longer exists, a part of a different age.  The Kids will have only known the modern, post-modern gameshow host, maybe minus the soon-to-retire Pat Sajack, the guy who can't believe he's hosting a gameshow and refuses to take it seriously.  And while I don't think Barker had any illusions about what he was doing, he was never above it.  

Anyway, never write off a sharp suit, a good haircut and an unflappable demeanor.  

Have your pets spayed or neutered!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Paul Reubens Merges With the Infinite

Man, this is some sad news I did not expect at all.

Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, has passed at the age of 70.

Reubens was a member of The Groundlings and became part of the class of breakout stars of his era, alongside Cassandra Peterson and others.  

Reubens created the unique and beloved character of Pee-Wee Herman, a persona who wound up in TV specials, movies, and the excellent Pee-Wee's Playhouse - one of the best things ever on Saturday mornings.  He's responsible for Tim Burton's early big screen success, and co-starred with everyone from Laurence Fishburne to Lynn-Marie Stewart and John Paragon on the Saturday morning show.  

Pee-Wee's run was cut short in the 1990's, but he returned in the age of social media, releasing a final movie, Pee-Wee's Big Holiday, that was as funny as anything he'd done, and maybe freer?

What has surprised me most about Pee-Wee over the years has been that the movies, specials, etc.. get *funnier*.  My first viewing of Pee-Wee Herman content was in elementary school, and every time I watch one of his movies or review clips of any of his work, it doesn't just hold up, it shines a little brighter.  

Reubens also appeared in numerous other projects, playing a wide range of characters.  He's great in Mystery Men, 1991's Blow, and he got the biggest laugh of the movie from me in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  

On social media, he was very plugged into the same sort of cheerful "look at this weirdo thing" stuff I tend to want to forward to Jamie, all of it in fun.  Lots of retro, lots of outlandish goofiness.  The kind of stuff that would look at home beside Mr. T cereal and pterodactyl puppets.

We'll miss Paul Reubens, and we'll miss Pee-Wee Herman.  Taken way too soon.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Alan Arkin Merges With the Infinite

Alan Arkin, prolific and wildly talented actor, has passed at 89.

Arkin was a staple of media I consumed particularly in the 1990's, and was still a draw to this very day.  His roles were not often those of the lead or leading man, but he was always terrific and often the highlight of the films in which he appeared.  

For many of us, he was an avatar or the personification of our inner monologue through a well-crafted persona he brought to comedies (watch The In-Laws.  Brilliant.).  But there was no persona or genre or kind of film he didn't make better.

We were lucky to have him for so long and enjoy his work, which he was still doing through last year.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Iron Sheik Merges With the Infinite

Wrestler Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known to generations of fans as the colorful character The Iron Sheik, has passed.  

The Iron Sheik was representative of WWF/ WWE's early smash success via playing out America's psychoses via avatars of various concepts in the zeitgeist appearing in the ring, often to battle the heroes of the WWF.  The Iron Sheik was, of course, the threat Americans saw of the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in the post-gas-crisis world.  

Vaziri was not, however, actually Saudi.  He was from Iran, and I have a very hard time figuring out when and how he came to the States, but it was in the early 70's and tied originally to Olympic wrestling.  I think.  That he would choose not to villainize Iran in his heel-turn of the 1980s is not a shock.

Like many kids of my generation, I liked the villains as much as the heroes of the WWE, and The Iron Sheik was a favorite.  With social media, he resurfaced, pounding out tweets in the broken dialect he employed as his character to cutting and hilarious effect.  I think I saw him tweeting just last week, so his passing is a bit of a surprise.

I'm aware of the brow-furrowing concern that media cops have put on wrestling then and now.  I get it.  But if I may... not once did I think The Iron Sheik was representative of anything but silliness and sweet wrestling moves, and while not fitting a rubric of acceptable, he's still a beloved figure of a certain era of my life.

Godspeed, you maniac.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Icon and Legend Tina Turner Has Merged With the Infinite

In the fall of 1996 I was at a party at Jamie's apartment, and someone said something about Tina Turner being passe, and - in the way only the right number of cocktails can steer you - I found myself giving an impassioned speech about the history, legacy and import of Tina Turner, and that we were lucky to share the planet with her.  

I swear to god, I hadn't thought that hard about Tina Turner since sorting through the lyrics to Private Dancer as a kid.  I hadn't ever even see What's Love Got To Do With It? because the idea of watching an entertainer I enjoy get beaten by fucking Ike Turner was in no way appealing.  I should have seen it (still haven't for same reason.  Fuck Ike Turner.)

I guess the speech stuck with Jamie, because a few months later she produced Tina Turner tickets for us to see her at the Alamodome in San Antonio.  And, friends, that show was amazing.

The crowd was made up of all demographics.  I had never seen the concept of "dress" before, but it was on full display there (I was a dopey 22 year old in college-kid concert clothes) and I immediately got it and was aware I was improperly attired.  Folks from the aged to children were in attendance.  And Jamie had bought seats at about the 13th row, dead-center facing the stage.  The view was phenomenal.

I still think about that show and Nutbush City Limits maybe once a month.  And GoldenEye, because, I mean, y'all know me and Bond and Bond themes, and it was wildly sexy, to boot.

In 1984 when Turner exploded back into the pop culture consciousness with the single and video for What's Love Got To Do With It?, I was 9 and pretty much unaware of who she was.  I think she'd been on MTV for a while when my dad made mention of "Oh, Tina Turner" and I got that she was not a new act and this was, in fact, a sort of return to prominence for the artist.  I sort of vaguely had ideas of what her stage show and persona had been via descriptions from people, but this was all years before YouTube, and so it wasn't until the film came out that I got what she'd been with Ike when TV ran clips.

And then, of course, YouTube had clips pretty early on.  

Man, she's just amazing

Admittedly, maybe I should have watched that movie because it wasn't until the 2021 documentary Tina was released that I got the full picture of Turner's life, and of the abuse and career devastation that followed until 1984.  I highly recommend the doc, which we discussed when it was released.

Turner was so popular that I never bothered to buy her records until the aforementioned concert.  She was just on the radio all the time or on VH1 and MTV.  I find it odd that she doesn't get the same play as other 1980's and 1990's artists on oldies stations as she was so a part of the soundtrack of everyday life for so long, and I don't quite get how she's been shelved to the point where I'm not sure folks ten years younger than me get who she was and the scope of her stardom.  But she'd also pivoted out of the world of R&B to rock in the 1980's, and that's probably a whole other discussion about rock's legacy.

I'm the guy who thinks she was awesome in Thunderdome, and was welcome wherever she showed up.  If I can recommend one record to get, or put on your streaming service of choice, it's Simply the Best.  Which is a greatest hits which prominently features one of her best hits, The Best.*  Which has been my favorite Turner song for 25 years now.  Wowsers.

I can't put my finger on exactly what I liked about Turner.  Clearly the stage show I saw cemented her in my mind.  But her voice was perfect for both rock and R&B.  Her presence was elegant and exuberant at the same time.  She was gorgeous and could dance like mad.  Really, she was one of the most complete packages of American musical performance talent I can think of.

Turner married a Swiss gentleman quite some time ago, and the pair retired to Switzerland in more recent years.  Tina did her farewell tour and sort of stuck to it.  I salute that.  

In 2021, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  There's a musical based on her life that's a Broadway show that's now also touring.  

I don't think Turner is anywhere near forgotten or will be.  Her place is secure for the next several decades.  

But, yeah, I'm crushed to hear of her passing.  She was the best.

Y'all take some time and listen to some Tina tonight.

*which, yes, Schitt's Creek took the song and made it their own

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Jerry Springer Merges With The Infinite

Not many talk-show hosts get a movie playing themselves doing their own talk show.  Not many talk-show hosts inspire operas.  Not many talk-show hosts wind up doing a talk-show after a major political scandal involving paying a hooker with a signed check and then *still* winding up as mayor of a major US city for a stint.

Jerry Springer was probably not a good man, but in 2011, I did meet him in the sportsbook at the Planet Hollywood hotel in Las Vegas where he was very nice to me and posed for drunken blurry pictures that have since been lost to bad asset management on the interwebs.  He was there hosting the Vegas nightly show of America's Got Talent.  He smoked a giant cigar and looked bored.

Like many talk-shows, Springer started off trying to do reasonable interviews that went in-depth on important issues, but when cancellation seemed imminent, he and his producers transformed his show into the chair-hurling, fist-tossing, hair-pulling bonanza it was.  Which made Springer rich, ultimately ran for roughly 25 years and spun off a few other shows, including a behind-the-scenes that made no one look good.  But when your set is designed to look like a sewer with a stripper pole, I guess no one cares?

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Harry Belafonte Has Merged With The Infinite

Actor, singer, activist and icon Harry Belafonte has passed at the age of 96.

Belafonte appeared in innumerable films, on television and was a popular recording artist.  Because I grew up in the shadow of his peak era as a performer, I knew him as a curious mix of "the guy who sang the Banana Boat song" and who would appear on television to weigh in on important topical issues - and be taken seriously.  Which is not something then or now that I or the culture give many celebrities leeway.  But as a player in the civil rights movement, Belafonte carried the torch forward for his entire life.

It was in college I came to understand his role as a Black man in film, and his broad appeal as a performer that helped him speak to everyone.  Of course, my first exposure to Belafonte was probably his appearance on The Muppet Show, which is a curiously moving episode.  

Here's to Mr. Belafonte, who fought the good fight.  

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Great Al Jaffee Merges With the Infinite

If you don't think you know Al Jaffee, you do.  He was one of the staples of Mad Magazine for decades and decades.  He's the reason you were always trying to properly fold the back of your Mad into thirds.  

Jaffee was 102, which means he saw almost *everything* comics had to throw at the world.  He would have been about 17 when Superman arrived, fer chrissake.  His first work was published in 1942, and he joined Mad in 1955.  He delivered art to Mad until the end of 2019.  Mind-bending.  

As a cartoonist, Jaffee didn't just do fold-ins.  He also delivered classic Mad bits with a pitch and tone that informed the comedic sensibilities of the many generations who read his work.  I, myself, always appreciated the Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, which it probably took me decades to deprogram myself from emulating.

That longevity and variety of offerings means Jaffee brought laughs to folks for 80 years.  I mean, I've lost a lot of time putting this post together just because I've been reading Jaffee's work.  It holds up like crazy!

We'll miss Jaffee, but, man, what a career. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Ricou Browning Has Merged With the Infinite

Ricou Browning, the man inside the Gill Man, has passed.  Browning was 93.

Many of you know The Creature from the Black Lagoon is part of my personal film canon.  And, so, we need to take a moment to address the loss.  

Browning wasn't just a one-hit wonder.  He was involved with several things you know - he did stunt work on Sea Hunt and started the show Flipper! as well as had involvement with the show Day of the Dolphin.  His work included item I genuinely love, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Thunderball.  Browning remained in touch with the massive CFTBL fanbase til the end.

I have several action figures in the house and a picture of the Creature in my living room (signed by co-star Julie Adams), so Browning has been in my world all my life as a 70's kid given monster content, and has continued on as a fixture, often on a daily basis one way or another.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Raquel Welch Merges With The Infinite

Raquel Welch, star of screen and stage, has passed.

Let's be candid.  In sixth grade, my science teacher took a rare break from biology, electricity and all the other things we studied that year and showed us Fantastic Voyage, because it's actually a really cool way to discuss the human body and what we knew about it at the time of filming.  And, of course, the movie co-starred Raquel Welch who seared herself into my budding consciousness as a wildly attractive woman of great intelligence, which is just the killer formula for making a lifelong fan of a kid.

I recall reading an interview where Welch mostly thought of herself as a working actor trying to make a living as a single mom when she found stardom, and while she was fighting blood cells with lasers, or fighting dinosaurs, she was thinking about making sure her kids had shoes.  That certainly skewed my perspective on her as a performer.

Fortunately, Welch went on to fame and fortune, only really retiring about five or six years ago.  IMDB credits her with 73 roles, a producer on 2 projects and a writer on 1.  She had more or less walked away from the spotlight since and hadn't conducted interviews in a few years.

A few years ago, I had opportunity to review a newly released BluRay of One Million Years B.C., and found it absolutely terrific.  And I feel I did a fair job of giving Welch her due in a movie with no spoken lines.

Because Welch never lost her beauty or glamour, I suppose I didn't realize she was aging like the rest of humanity.  I'm very sorry to hear she's gone on.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Cindy Williams Merges With The Infinite

Cindy Williams, who played Shirley on the popular sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has passed.  

It seems her passing must have been sudden as just last week I saw an ad for Williams' one-woman show, Me, Myself and Shirley, which was coming to Austin.  

Williams was a staple of 70's and 80's television, and a star of George Lucas' breakthrough hit, American Graffiti.  Williams appeared in the great Coppola film The Conversation, as well as countless movies and shows over the years.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Lisa Loring Merges With The Infinite

Lisa Loring, who most famously played Wednesday Addams on The Addams Family from 1964-1966, has passed.  

Like many child actors, Loring's post-Addams Family life was complex, dipping in and out of the spotlight from time to time, through tabloids and media appearances.   And, like many celebrities of retro media, Loring had made a career out of the fan shows and convention circuit.  She did act in TV and film, keeping mostly to guest starring roles and smaller films.

Remarkably, Loring really did grow up to somewhat resemble Carolyn Jones.  So, whomever from casting picked her out in 1964, well done.

Loring is survived by her two daughters.

Here's to the original Wednesday cutting a rug.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Astronaut Walter Cunningham Merges With The Infinite

Cunningham was key to the success of the Apollo missions, and after his tenure as an Astronaut, went on to support myriad technology and space-related ventures and was a prominent supporter of NASA and Houstonian.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Barbara Walters Merges With the Infinite

Journalist and television personality Barbara Walters has passed.

By the time I was aware of who was on TV, Barbara Walters was already an institution.  What I didn't really appreciate til college was what a pioneer Walters was.  There were other women in the newsfield, certainly, but Walters had become a national figure, hosting the national news and then becoming the person who had the most important interviews on television (that used to be a thing that was part of journalism before Oprah made soft-ball interviews her bag).  

Through countless stories delivered, interviews, and - of course - establishing the TV hot topics program The View (back before the show was about talking about the show itself, it was intended to discuss current events) - Walters brought the world to people's living rooms for decades.