Sunday, August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley, a man I think it's safe to say all of us had a multi-faceted fondness for, has passed.
From the NYT.
I can't say how I became aware of Wilford Brimley. I knew who he was by the time I saw Cocoon in the theater. Maybe he was doing oatmeal commercials by then. I can't say.
He was always a lot younger than he looked - he was only 50ish when they filmed Cocoon. He would have been about 45 when he did The Thing. One of his craziest coups was playing the Postmaster General of the USPS for about one minute on Seinfeld and doing that thing he'd done in The Firm where Grandpa-is-low-key-threatening-me that was bizarrely terrifying.
The last few years, Brimley discovered twitter and was hilarious and a cheerful spot.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Olivia de Havilland has passed at the age of 104.
With an astounding career that spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood into the post-studio system Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland was the last, living player from some of the great pictures of the early sound era. She was in Gone with the Wind, but I prefer her and the movie of The Adventures of Robin Hood, in which she co-starred as Maid Marian.
Just last week, during my lunch break, I watched her in part of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
She had remarked in her last decades that being one of the last living actors from a bygone era of Hollywood was like being from a place no one else could remember. That always struck me as remarkably sad.
She'd lived in France for the past six decades, returning to the US for various events and film roles.
Here's to a grand actress.
Saturday, July 25, 2020
How odd. I always thought of Regis Philbin as.. a permanent fixture. He'd seemed sort of ageless all his years on TV.
But he seems to have passed.
For the kids - Regis was a sort of gadfly of the media industry who had his greatest success with "Regis and Kathie Lee" back in the 90's, a softball morning show where he drank coffee and met celebrities and clearly had no idea who they were or what they were pitching. He was a great default guest for late-night talk shows (I always suspected he was on speed dial when they had a cancellation) because he'd been a sort of Jiminy Glick for so long that he had tons of crazy stories.
Anyway, he was someone I always found pretty funny. He had a certain joie de vivre that made him a kick to have on. And, when he hosted the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, our own Nathan Cone got to meet him as a contestant.
Friday, July 17, 2020
I can't begin to sum up the importance and achievements of John Lewis, and what he has meant to this country. He has passed at the age of 80, still calling for a better way, every day, to the end.
From the New York Times
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Last night the news hit that Grant Imahara, one of the main cast members of Mythbusters, had passed at the age of 49.
This one shook me.
The Mythbusters cast never came across as celebrities - they came across as people you might know who someone had bestowed a budget and granted time to answer all sorts of questions you might think about but never be able to pursue. To this day, I can't tell you how many times per month I still say "I think Mythbusters covered that" when we're pondering a question. And those questions are not just whether and to what degree something might explode.
Imahara was the purist engineer of the crew, and seemed genuinely more interested in the process and data than being on TV. He made a great third side of the triangle for "the build team", ensuring engineering and data driven practices were part of what they were up to. And he did it with a joyfulness that was positively inspiring. We should all strive to have Grant's excitement about opportunity and discovery.
The cast seemed to be roughly of my generation, and so of course it's a shock when someone your own age suddenly goes. We aren't really there yet. But especially someone who had become famous somewhat by accident, who never became a jerk or let it go to his head, and never seemed to lose his curiosity. We *liked* Grant.
I can't imagine what his family and friends are going through. It seems incredibly unfair.
Monday, July 6, 2020
Ennio Morricone, famed composer of film scores, has passed at the age of 91.
It's hard to measure the impact of Morricone's work. He scored hundreds of films, shows and other works with a seeming endless variety to his work. For American ears, he broke onto the American film scene as he shattered our expectations of what a Western might sound like and created an entirely new aural concept to match Leone's vision of the world of gun slingers and pioneers.
To this day, I'm uncertain what instruments were deployed for some of his most famous music, but he wasn't yoked to a symphony - though he was quick to employ one, and a chorus, or - maybe most famously - a solo singer. While listeners may often pause while watching a film and guess rightly "is this Morricone?", the diversity of approaches from The Thing to Once Upon a Time in America to Days of Heaven can defy categorization. From electronic instrumentation to oboes to you-name-it, he found the sound of the soul of a film, and made them sing.
Friday, June 12, 2020
I am terribly, terribly sorry to report that Dennis "Denny" O'Neil has passed. I am often genuinely saddened when I see someone has gone on to their reward, but sometimes it hits harder.
It is difficult to measure the impact O'Neil had on comics, popular culture and culture writ-large. And I doubt many people outside us comics nerds (and possibly only comics nerds of a certain age) know his name. O'Neil was one of the giants, someone I "liked" as a kid when I'd read his stuff, but as an adult and went back through the history of DC and saw all he'd accomplished?
O'Neil is one of the creators largely responsible for the version of Batman you know and love. He revitalized and solidified Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), making them relevant as sounding boards for the issues of the day. He updated Superman and took on the challenge of turning Wonder Woman into a secret agent (with mixed results). You may know the long runs on Batman that wound up informing Batman: The Animated Series, or the famous "Hard Travelling Heroes" period of Green Lantern/ Green Arrow. His run on Superman is actually pretty well written, if unsustainable. The run on Wonder Woman is flat out wild and strange, and - issues though it may have - it's a fascinating attempt to try to update (and maybe a good cautionary tale for every time the internet tells DC to update Wonder Woman).
I first learned his name, I believe, on the cover of The Question (along with Denys Cowan), and soon I looked for his name in association with a certain level of storytelling I thought surpassed most of what was on the rack.
O'Neil didn't just tell stories that took DC heroes on new journeys and challenged them in new ways, he invented a large number of characters for DC and more. Those characters were a huge part of comics of my youth from O'Neil and others, and wound up in cartoons, movies and more. Scroll down this page to see a list of his contributions.
It's odd to see the passing of someone who was part of the second generation to enter comics, the folks who were handing off the torch as I was showing up as a reader. But O'Neil in particular is going to be missed. But us comics folk aren't the type to forget a person's contribution or what they did to advance the narratives that inspire and entertain us. And inspired others to create more on the foundations they built.
We'll miss you, Denny.
Saturday, May 16, 2020
Fred Willard has passed at the age of 86.
Willard was one of the funniest people to appear in TV and movies, full stop.
When I was in high school, Nick at Nite sprang into being and shortly thereafter brought on old episodes of Fernwood 2-Night, which, as a kid who could never sleep (or an adult who still won't go to bed), I found myself watching when I'd get a chance. And then, of course, his appearances in Christopher Guest movies of the mid-90's just sealed the deal. The man was hysterical.*
I'm really going to miss knowing he was out there, his guest appearances on shows, his recurring roles on others, and basically just having Fred Willard in this universe.
*those doubters should immediately view Best in Show, and then tell me Willard's role wasn't the inspiration for how today's dog shows on TV are broadcast.
Monday, May 11, 2020
What a career this guy had. If you're going to set out to be a comedic actor, you can't do much better than the lifetime of work Jerry Stiller turned into gold. I can't begin to count the number of times he made me laugh til I cried.
Heck, I watched TV shows I had no real interest in just to see him. But he also popped up in one of the best movies of the 70's, Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
We'll miss you, sir.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Brain Dennehy has passed at the age of 81.
I've been a fan since first knowing who he was thanks to Silverado, and enjoyed him in a number of films in the years since. As a fellow larger gentleman, it was always nice to know he was out there representing.
But, truly, he was a gifted talent.
Monday, April 6, 2020
Honor Blackman, who starred in Goldfinger and on TV's The Avengers has passed at the age of 94.
For me, Blackman sets the bar for all "Bond Girls", up to and including Diana Rigg and Eva Green, and remains my favorite (she literally saves thousands of lives in Goldfinger while Bond is in jail). Look, Blackman was a stone cold fox who could make a white pantsuit sing, but she also plays the role of Pussy Galore to perfection. She's among the few female costars who ever gave a Bond a run of their money, and there's a reason (beyond the colorful name) that she's remembered so well 50-odd years later.
It was always great to know she was out there, and she'll be missed.
|I mean, purple works, too|
You can hear me wax rhapsodic about Pussy Galore on our Goldfinger podcast.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Musician Kenny Rogers has passed at the age of 81.
Country music went through a boom in the late 70's and early 1980's, and it's hard to think of anyone who crossed over to mainstream Soft Rock popularity more than Kenny Rogers. For a few years there, Rogers was everywhere on the radio and in my parents' record collection. His stardom rose enough that they put him in movies (see: Six Pack) and even based a series of TV movies on his hit song, "The Gambler".
On the back of a huge duets album, Rogers shared a headline act with Dolly Parton at one of the first concerts I ever attended at age 10 (it seems this was November 3rd, 1985). I mean, we all remember "Islands in the Stream".*
By the 90's, Rogers had settled into veteran star status and continued putting out albums, touring, appearing in movies, etc... but it would probably be a surprise to anyone under the age of 38 or so what a huge deal this guy was for a while.
Anyway, I can't say I kept up with Kenny Rogers much since... 1987 or so. But there's no question Rogers was a huge part of a certain era. At our house, his records spun on the turntable and we were called into the room if he was going to appear on TV (and my mom would exclaim "oh, he's so good!"). Circa 1995 my brother and I treated Jamie to an impromptu duet of "The Gambler" which she first found charming and then alarming as we would not stop.
Here's to Kenny Rogers.
*or, as the kids know it, that old skool Diddy track, "Ghetto Superstar"
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Monday, March 9, 2020
Max Von Sydow has passed at the age of 90.
How do you talk about someone like Von Sydow? Who worked with Bergman, starred as Ming the Merciless and was in hundreds of roles of all shapes and sizes? I'm not going to. He was Von Sydow, and he's going to be one of those guys we understand on one level now, and in time will stand back in awe at the breadth and depth of what he did.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
In the 1990's, James Lipton burst onto the basic cable scene with Inside the Actor's Studio, a TV interview show where Lipton interviewed name-actors. It was a fun program, not devoid of talk-show cheesiness, but also occasionally insightful and felt like actors sort of let their guard down, but also basked in the attention of starry-eyed young actors.
Lipton became a household celebrity himself, his mannered approach and just off-center style entertaining on its own.
James Lipton has passed at the age of 93.
I was never an aspiring actor, but I was always fascinated by the 10 final questions Lipton would ask as he closed down an episode. So, here are my answers:
- What is your favorite word? - howdy
- What is your least favorite word? - abbatoir
- What turns you on? - intelligent curiosity
- What turns you off? - lack of empathy
- What sound or noise do you love? - dog feet on the stairs or the crack of a bat on ball hitting a homerun
- What sound or noise do you hate? - beep of medical monitors
- What is your favorite curse word? - Fuck (it's so flexible!), but especially in the context of JFC
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? - K9 officer
- What profession would you not like to do? - flight attendant
- If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? - "all the dogs you ever had are over there with those books you never got around to reading"
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend, has passed at 103.
As a kid, I knew him from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And, of course, Tough Guys.
Spartacus, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Out of the Past, and countless, countless other films, Douglas created innumerable memorable roles - Douglas earned his place in cinema history over and over.
He'll be eulogized and memorialized, and as one of the last of a bygone era (Olivia De Havilland predates him and is still alive) he was one of the last of the era that Hollywood still tries to cling to.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.
This one hit us all hard and never let up.
Monday, July 22, 2019
If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA. It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson. One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.
Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.
Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo. Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.
He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA. In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.
Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed. He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science. The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.
A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.
Friday, July 12, 2019
2019 was the year I finally started watching Brooklyn 99, and like everyone else who watched the show, I became a big fan of Cheddar, the pet Corgi of Captain Raymond Holt and the lynchpin of more than one episode.
Sadly, a pup doesn't live forever, and Cheddar performer, Stewart, has merged with the Infinite.
Pouring one out for you, buddy.