Sunday, July 8, 2018
Comics creator Steve Ditko passed this weekend at the age of 90. As you may know, Ditko co-created Spider-Man and was responsible for the art chores and certainly deserves co-writing credits with Lee on the early years of the wall-crawler's adventures. He was behind some of my favorite Spidey villains like Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Doctor Octopus, and - of course - Green Goblin. Not bad.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Thursday, June 21, 2018
We are sad to report that Koko the Gorilla has passed.
I first learned about Koko the Gorilla back in Elementary School. For some reason, my class read an article on Koko, the gorilla who was learning sign-language. She'd been raised by Penny Patterson, who taught her sign-language, and she'd develop a 1000 word vocabulary.
Monday, May 14, 2018
Multiple news sources are reporting the passing of actor Margot Kidder.
Kidder was, to my generation, Lois Lane.
Arguably, Kidder's portrayal was the one that reset Lois as the Rosalind Russell-model news woman that she'd been in the Golden Age and that we simply expect in portrayals of Lois today.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Former First Lady Barbara Bush has passed at the age of 92.
Mrs. Bush was the wife of President George H.W. Bush, the 41st President, Vice-President under Ronald Reagan and former CIA Director.
She was also the mother of George W. Bush, the 43rd President and grandmother to Jenna and Barbara Bush.
My politics don't always run in line with the Bush clan, but I liked Mrs. Bush. You knew where she stood, you knew she had a sense of humor of sorts but didn't suffer fools. She seemed to know her own mind and while she was a presence in the White House, she didn't rub me the wrong way that Nancy Reagan always did.
And when Jenna was getting trashed at parties during her tenure at UT Austin and she and Barbara got busted for fake ID's at Chuy's... Mrs. Bush summoned those two miscreants, had a talk with them and got them permanently straightened out.
Mrs. Bush used her platform as First Lady to support literacy programs and for civil rights, and in her later years didn't hold her tongue when it came to the national scene. In retirement the Bush's called Houston home and could be seen at the Symphony, Astros games and around town. She was reportedly gracious and kind.
I heard she once slipped her security detail and made her way to the George HW Bush Library in College Station where the couple have an apartment built right into the library (man, no I don't know why. There's a nice few hotels in that town.). What Mrs. Bush didn't know was that she needed to tell someone she was there, and she didn't, so she got locked in the library over night and surprised the heck out of everyone the next morning when they opened up.
I really hope that story is true.
We'll miss you Mrs. Bush. You were good people. Even if your one very public feud was with Marge Simpson.
I hope Millie is waiting for you.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Physicist Stephen Hawking has passed.
Hawking was not just one of the finest minds of our era, but a brilliant communicator for science with a dry sense of humor. I don't need to remind you that Hawking suffered from motor neuron disease, but he served as an example of overcoming those challenges and how a mind perseveres.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
I was unable to confirm yesterday when I saw the news, but now The Hollywood Reporter has it that actor Peggy Cummins has passed.
Cummins is in at least two fantastic movies, Curse of the Demon (1957) and, of course, one of my hands-down favorite films, Gun Crazy (1950).
You can read the linked article to get a notion of Cummins' career, which was fairly brief despite her obvious talents. Not everyone stays in pictures, or even in Hollywood.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Hugh Hefner, American icon, has passed.
Really, if anyone was living their best life, it's hard to imagine a more straightforward vision pursued and achieved (at a simply mind-boggling level) than America's least repentant swingin' daddio, Hugh Hefner.
|No idea how one gets from "I have an idea!" to this point|
I've mostly lived in the era of "Fun Uncle" and "Kindly Grandpa" Hef, the Playboy Clubs a relic of prior generations by the time I learned about them. The magazine has always been around, but I've only ever bought one issue, and that was for someone else because I was feeling daffy. The era of Playboy journalism getting scoops, publishing name writers, etc.. was still in play in the 1980's, but fading. Mostly I remember the ads they ran on TV selling subscriptions to Playboy, and, of course, the forbidden stack of Playboy Magazines a few neighborhood dads or older brothers would have, which I never, ever would have stolen a peek at. Nope.
But by high school (the early 90's), even chumps like me were aware that Playboy was less pornography (and I still roll my eyes at people who categorize it as such, but it also isn't for the whole family) and more of a lifestyle magazine for people who at least wanted to believe they were living it up. And boobs. Lots of boobs. And butts. And, Hef guessed correctly. That was a popular formula.
You're not supposed to say Hugh Hefner provided an invaluable service to America in a pre-internet era, but he kind of did. For our more sensitive readers, we'll leave it there. But he also provided a view of the world in which embracing a sex-positive stance (albeit, a deeply problematic one) could get some traction. And, he got Jimmy Carter to say some pretty funny shit.
It was always amazing to know the Playboy mansion was out there, and this average-looking guy had a "private grotto" attached to his pool. It was all so cartoonish, it just felt like a giant ad for the magazine, and I guess it was. Sure, I'm sure Hef enjoyed it all, but it was work, too.
But it is true that the Playboy model has struggled since the mid-90's with the rise of the internet splitting up the varying interests contained in the magazine. By the early 00's, Playboy seemed more successful as a brand or license than as a magazine. They're still struggling to find a model that works that people will pay for, but that's other people's problem now and has been for decades. Hef got to just stay in pajamas and hang out at his mansion all day.
I dunno. You did a really remarkable and weird thing, Hef. And I am sure your regrets are both vast and beyond the imaginings of any man. But you did okay, too. We're gonna miss you.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
If you're a Monster Kid of any stripe, you know the work of Basil Gogos. Whether from his work painting covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland to album covers, Gogos spent the back half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century as king of a niche others are just now entering - illustrative portraiture of cinematic marvels and monsters.
Yesterday I became aware of the news that Basil Gogos has passed beyond this veil of tears. But of this I am certain - his work is now as much a part of Monster Movie fandom as the films, actors and creators. His uncanny visuals have been wonderful additions to pop-culture and modern culture itself.
Friday, September 15, 2017
Somehow, death has taken one of the best, Harry Dean Stanton.
A notice in the New York Times.
No matter what he was in, he elevated the movie. Ebert himself said: "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad."
- Cool Hand Luke
- Kelly's Heroes
- Godfather: Part II
- Escape From New York
- Repo Man
- Red Dawn
- Pretty in Pink
- Last Temptation of Christ
- Wild at Heart
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With me
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- The Avengers
- Twin Peaks
We're going to miss you, sir. But thanks for everything.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Gerry has informed me, and social media - from Paul Kupperberg to Paul Levitz and Elliot S! Maggin - confirms, that Len Wein has passed.
A report at CBR, Newsarama, and we are certain the reports will be in the hundreds.
My ear is not to the comics social media ground the way it once was, and I confess I didn't know he was ill. When his fellow Swamp Thing creator, Bernie Wrightson, passed in recent days, I'd known of Wrightson's illness in part because of announcements and some of his work stopped that I was reading. Wein had recently returned to the DC stable and I hadn't heard.
I just check Comic Vine, and Wein has 1640 credits on comics to his name between credits for writing, editing, et al.
69 seems far off when you're in your twenties. When you're in your forties, it seems very, very young and very unfair.
But Wein left an incredible legacy, and was a huge part in the shift in content and tone that led to modern comics. From his contribution in creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing to his work on establishing X-Men in much the way we think of them today, to great work on Batman and practically every other character in comics.
I can't say anything that Wein's peers and friends won't say with more grace and with far more meaning than myself. I encourage you to read the tributes which are already appearing. But I will say he will always be remembered, his work loved, his contributions honored and the folks he inspired who came after him owe him a great debt of gratitude for paving the way to a new kind of comic - which, in turn, changed our culture.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Harou Nakajima, the original Man-in-Suit, has passed.
Watching Godzilla movies will tell you that our gigantic, atomic-fire-breathing-pal had a definite personality. And I think you can chalk a good chunk of that up to Mr. Harou Nakajima.
To get a better idea of what I mean, give those first few Godzilla movies a spin and watch as the big fella becomes more himself. A sort of cranky giant who definitely has opinions.
I recently saw this video interviewing the actor. It is absolutely inspiring and a testament to a certain mindset we could all stand to try on.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Actor, Playwright, Director and pretty-cool-guy Sam Shepard has passed at the age of 73. He had been dealing with ALS for some time.
Shepard appeared in one of my favorite films, The Right Stuff, as real-life hero and pilot Chuck Yeager. It's one of those roles and performances I imprinted on at a young age, and I still marvel at each time I watch the movie.
He'll be missed.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
It's impossible to measure the impact this man had on pop culture and culture in general. Legendary director and inventor of the modern zombie genre, George Romero, has passed.
We'll miss you, George.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
This one hurts.
Adam West has passed at the age of 88.
Literally my earliest memories include watching Batman starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Steans-family lore states that my first words were "Batman" as I ran around our home with my security blanket around my neck.
The story is that I was toddler-ish and Jason was two years older, and my mom, The Karebear, had to make us dinner before my Dad got home from work (dude worked hard and late). In order to wrangle me, her ADD wunderkind, she figured out that I'd sit perfectly still for Batman, which happened to be on in syndication right when she needed to fire up the stove.
When the Michael Keaton-starring "serious" Batman was released, in 1989, when I was 14, the show came back on cable, and I totally got what they were up to. Somehow, inbetween, like many of my generation, there'd been some confusion about the show being a drama that was kind of stupid and something you grew out of. But, nope, the show had been winking to the older crowd all along.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
What can you say? Don Rickles was one of the five funniest people I can think of, and he was a pro and working right up til recent years, still himself and sharp as hell the last time I saw him on video.
Some people's comedy doesn't age well - I'm not sure how a lot of comedians from the first thirty years of TV would play today. But Rickles was always in a class of his own, decade after decade, and no one could do what he did and still be beloved by multiple generations. I think we all knew - that wicked tongue? It was the act. You never saw people who actually knew Rickles say a word against him, and if you doubt that, please do watch the doc, Mr. Warmth.
I mean, I can think of few things that would have filled me with more joy in this life than had the man ever called me a hockey puck.
Here's the NY Times obit.
He's truly going to be missed, and I hope all the media coverage he gets tells the younger kids he was more than a Mr. Potato - although that was sort of perfect, too.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Monday, March 6, 2017
Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne has merged with The Infinite.
I was pretty much convinced that Robert Osborne was a robot. It didn't matter what time of day or night I switched on Turner Classic Movies, if a movie wasn't playing, he was providing an intro or outro in a smooth, polished, knowledgeable manner, like the best film prof you never had. In theory he was the prime-time host, but for several years in there, I literally remember no one else.
I mean, sure, it was just a few minutes per movie, but those need to be written, shot, etc... and it was clear he was pretty hands-on with all aspects. Including the phenomenal interviews he wrangled with innumerable Hollywood icons, and later as he'd co-host series with modern luminaries reflecting back on whatever run of movies they were about to show. And he always got to the nut of what made the film special both writ large and what made fans (these modern film stars) so passionate about the movie.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Like all of you, we were saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of actor Bill Paxton.
Paxton became a favorite back in the mid-80's when we first saw Aliens in which he played Private First Class Hudson, the resident smart-ass of the squad of Colonial Marines sent in to investigate the situation on Acheron (aka LV-426). After that, we recognized him as Chet in Weird Science and the punk guy who maybe shouldn't have picked a fight with a naked Arnie in Terminator.
Paxton was always a welcome name to see show up in the credits of any film, and you always knew you were getting something memorable out of him. He didn't have many blockbuster starring roles outside of Twister, but he continued to provide outstanding performances in supporting roles and found a lead role that worked well for him in HBO's polygamy drama, Big Love.
We'll miss Paxton. To say he went too soon is a tremendous understatement, and I think all of us expected him to continue to appear on our screens for decades to come.
But let us never forget that he also directed and starred in the video for Barnes & Barnes classic "Fish Heads".