Sunday, March 17, 2019

The 100th Birthday of Nat King Cole

Before The Beatles, before Elvis Presley, there was Nat King Cole. Both with the King Cole Trio and as a solo artist he would be phenomenally successful. From 1942 to 1964 he would have scores of hit singles, many of which would reach no. 1 on the various Billboard charts. As a solo artist he had 14 number one hit singles in Britain alone. So successful was Nat King Cole that the Capitol Records Building, completed in 1956, is still known as "the House That Nat Built." Few other performers ever saw the success that Nat King Cole had. He was born 100 years ago today, March 17 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama.

Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles. Like his brothers, Eddie, Ike, and Freddie, he took to music while young. His mother taught him to play organ. When he was 12 he began learning how to play the piano formally. With his brother Eddie, who was a bassist, he formed Eddie Cole's Swingsters. Eddie Cole's Swingsters recorded two singles for Decca in 1936. He played in a revival of the musical Shuffle Along. Afterwards Nat King Cole led a big band and then formed the King Cole Swingsters with bassist Wesley Prince and guitarist Oscar Moore. They soon changed their name to the King Cole Trio. In 1940 they recorded the single "Sweet Lorraine". In 1941 the King Cole Trio recorded "That Ain't Right" for Decca, which would prove to be their first big hit. It went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart.

The King Cole Trio proved very successful. They appeared frequently on radio, with several guest appearances on Kraft Music Hall (starring Bing Crosby) in particular. In 1946 they had their own 15 minute radio show, King Cole Trio Time. They appeared in the feature films Stars on Parade (1944), Swing in the Saddle (1944), Killer Diller (1948), and Make Believe Ballroom (1949), as well as several short subjects. In 1947 Nat King Cole recorded "Nature Boy" with an orchestra, and the single was credited to "King Cole". The song hit number one on the Billboard singles chart. With various departures from the King Cole Trio and some success as a solo artist, starting in 1949 singles were being credited as "Nat King Cole & the Trio". Starting in 1950, the singles credited to "Nat King Cole". It was in the spring of 1951 that it was announced that the King Cole Trio had been dissolved.

If anything, Nat King Cole became even more successful as a solo artist. Indeed, even in years when he did not have a number one record (such as 1953, 1954, and 1955), his singles still did so well that he would still rank in the top ten most successful music artists for the year.

With such success, it should come as no surprise that Nat King Cole would make the move to television. In 1956 Nat King Cole signed a contract with CBS to host a show of his own. Unfortunately plans for a show starring Nat King Cole never moved forward at CBS. It was later in the year that Nat King Cole signed a contract with NBC. This time around a show did emerge. The Nat King Cole Show debuted as a 15 minute programme on Monday night, November 5 1956 at 7:30 Eastern/6:30 Central.

While The Nat King Cole Show was definitely a major milestone for black performers on television, contrary to popular belief, it was not the first variety show to be hosted by a black person. In 1950 singer Hazel Scott hosted the short-lived Hazel Scott Show on the ill-fated Dumont Television Network. In 1952 singer Billy Daniels hosted the short lived Billy Daniels Show on ABC. Since Hazel Scott was from Trinidad, Billy Daniels was then the first African American to host a variety show. That having been said, The Nat King Cole Show was the first time that a variety show was hosted by an African American with the success of Nat King Cole. In fact, Nat King Cole was more successful than many of the white singers who hosted variety shows.

Despite Nat King Cole's phenomenal success as a recording artist, The Nat King Cole Show would prove to be ill-fated. NBC had agreed to finance the show in the hope that a national sponsor would pick it up. Sadly NBC found had problems finding national sponsors for the show. Many advertisers were afraid of the reaction that the South might have if a company sponsored a show hosted by a black man. Someone representing the cosmetics company Max Factor even insisted that an African American could not sell lipstick for them. Carter Products (who manufactured  Carter's Little Liver Pills and Arrid deodorant) bought time on The Nat King Cole Show from time to time, but it was not enough to support the show. To help support the show NBC sought out local sponsors, so that Coca-Cola sponsored the show in Houston, Rheingold Beer sponsored the show in New York City, and so on.

 Amazingly enough given Nat King Cole's success as a musical artist, The Nat King Cole Show also suffered from low ratings. In an attempt to improve the ratings, NBC revamped the show in July 1957, expanding it to half an hour and giving it a bigger budget. In an effort to save the show, Nat King Cole's fellow performers worked for industry scale or even nothing at all. Such big names as earl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Frankie Laine, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, and Mel Tormé all appeared on the show.

Unfortunately, none of this was enough to attract a national sponsor for The Nat King Cole Show or dramatically improve the ratings. Unwilling to give up on the show entirely, NBC offered to move The Nat King Cole Show to 7:30 PM  Eastern/6:30 PM Central on Saturdays. Nat King Cole declined the network's offer of a new time slot and decided to end the show.  The Nat King Cole Show ended its run on December 17 1957. Nat King Cole credited with NBC, from David Sarnoff on down, with having supported the show from the beginning right through to the very end. He blamed the show's failure on sponsors and advertising agencies afraid of supporting a show hosted by an African American.

While The Nat King Cole Show proved to be ill fated, he continued to guest star on such programmes as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Perry Como Show, The Garry Moore Show, and yet others. He also had a career in movies. Having already appeared in films as a vocalist, Nat King Cole appeared in the role of Danny Rice in the film Istanbul (1957). He was one of the leads in the film China Gate (1957). He played the lead role of W. C. Handy in the biopic St. Louis Blues (1958). He played a supporting role in Night of the Quarter Moon (1960). Nat King Cole's last appearance in a feature film would be in the Western comedy Cat Ballou in 1965. He played the Sunrise Kid, who with Sam the Shade (played by Stubby Kaye) serve as a bit of a Greek chorus in the film. Sadly, Nat King Cole died only four months before Cat Ballou was released.

It was in 1964 that Nat King Cole, who had been a heavy smoker his entire life, was diagnosed with lung cancer. His condition worsened and it was clear that his illness was terminal, although the press at the time gave no real indication of how serious his cancer was. It was on February 15 1965, the day after his 45th birthday, that Nat King Cole died.

Nat King Cole would leave behind an incredible legacy. With the King Cole Trio he would prove to have a lasting influence on jazz, particularly with regards to jazz piano. The trio itself would provide the template for many small jazz ensembles to come, consisting of piano, guitar, and bass. Much of the King Cole Trio's work would even have a lasting impact on rock and roll. Such singles as "Straighten Up and Fly Right" can easily be considered forerunners of rock and roll.

To a degree Nat King Cole was a controversial figure. African American activists were not happy that he performed before segregated audiences. As a popular black artist, he also attracted the ire of racists and was even attacked on stage in Birmingham, Alabama by white men. Eventually Nat King Cole agreed to boycott venues that practised segregation. While Nat King Cole had played before segregated audience, he also contributed money to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and sued hotels that refused to serve him. He later played an important role in the planning of the the March on Washington in 1963.

As a solo artist Nat King Cole shifted from being a jazz pianist to a crooner, but he would still have enormous success and an incredible impact on music. Indeed, he ranks alongside the most successful crooners of all time, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. As a singer Nat King Cole was gifted with a rich baritone and perfect pitch. This is all the more remarkable given that, as a vocalist, he had no formal training.  Nat King Cole would have a lasting influence on future vocalists, including Sam Cooke, Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, and yet others. Both as part of the King Cole Trio and as a solo artist, Nat King Cole played a pivotal role as one of the earliest black music artists to gain popularity with white audiences.

To this day Nat King Cole remains one of the most popular vocalists of all time. Compilation albums of his songs have been released right up to this very day, and episodes of The Nat King Cole Show are available on DVD. Few other music artists would ever see the success of Nat King Cole. He remains not only one of the most successful performers of the 20th Century, but perhaps of all time.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Five Possible Comic Book Movies Not Involving Superheroes

There is a good reason why most movies based on comic books are superhero movies. While superheroes did not originate with comic books, there can be no doubt that superheroes have been the dominant genre of the medium for much of its history. That having been said, superheroes are hardly the only genre covered by comic books. In fact, from about the end of World War II to the beginning of the Silver Age (with Showcase no 4, October 1946, which introduced the Silver Age version of The Flash), superheroes were a rarity in comic books. While this period is best known for the horror titles of the sort published by E.C., the comic book industry published titles in a number of different genres, including Westerns, humour, romance, and mystery.

Given the number of different genres that comic books have covered over the years, it is fully possible for a movie to be based on a comic book and not involve a superhero. Indeed, there have already been a few, including American Splendour (2003), Constantine (2005), Ghost World (2001), and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), among many others. There is no shortage of comic books in genres other than superheroes that could easily be adapted as films. Here are five of them.

Adam Strange: If you are a Baby Boomer or Gen Xer and read DC Comics, chances are you are familiar with Adam Strange. Adam Strange was created by editor Julius Schwartz and artist Murphy Anderson, and first appeared in Showcase  no. 17, November 1958. Adam Strange is an archaeologist who found himself teleported to the planet Rann in the Alpha Centauri system (later changed to Polaris). There he befriended Alanna and her father, the scientist Zardath. As might be expected, Alanna became his romantic interest and later his wife. Adam soon became Rann's champion, defending the planet against various threats. Unfortunately for Adam, the effects of the zeta beam would return him to Earth exactly where he had been. Fortunately, he would be called back to Rann on a fairly regular basis. After a successful tryout in Showcase, Adam Strange earned a place in DC Comics' science fiction anthology Mystery in Space.

What set Adam Strange apart from other science fiction series in comic books of the time is that it seemed much more believable. While attending City College of New York, editor Julius Schwartz had majored in math and physics. He was then able to give writer Gardner Fox advice on how to make Adam's adventures more scientifically plausible. Since the Silver Age, Adam Strange has continued to be popular and still appears in the pages of DC Comics from time to time.

Hop Harrigan: Aviators were popular heroes from the Twenties into the early Forties. Indeed, during the Thirties, newspaper comic strips were filled with such high-flying heroes as Tailspin Tommy, Scorchy Smith, and Ace Drummond. It was only a matter of time before comic books would capitalise on the popularity of aviators at the time. Hop Harrigan first appeared in All-American Comics no. 1, April 1939, the very first title published by All-American Publications, one of the companies that would become the modern day DC Comics.

Hop Harrigan began life as an orphan whose father, a famous pilot, disappeared while flying to South America. He was raised by a greedy neighbour who falsely claimed to be Hop's legal guardian so he could get his hands on the boy's inheritance. Once Hop reached adulthood, the corrupt neighbour tried to destroy one of Hop's father's old biplanes. Hop dispatched the old man and then took off in the biplane, never to return. He befriended mechanic Tank Tinker and with others they founded the All-American Aviation Company. Hop then launched on a series of adventures.

While Hop Harrigan is largely forgotten by everyone except fans of Golden Age comics, he was a popular character in the late Thirties and Forties. A radio show, Hop Harrigan, ran from August 31 1942 to February 6 1948. There was also a 16 chapter movie serial, Hop Harrigan, that was released on March 28 1946. The character would ultimately last until All-American Comics no. 99, July 1948. By that time aviator heroes were not as popular as they once were. Since then Hop Harrigan has very rarely appeared in DC Comics. Despite this, I think the adventures of a high-flying aviator in the early Forties would be a good change of pace from the many superhero movies.

Kid Colt: Today Marvel Comics is best known for their superheroes, but prior to the Silver Age they published titles in a plethora of other genres. In fact, I have to suspect that prior to the Silver Age they may have been best known for their Western titles. In fact, Marvel's Western comic books were so successful that they were published for over thirty years, from 1946 to 1979. Their most successful character, Kid Colt, was also the longest running Western character in the history of comic books. His title, Kid Colt Outlaw lasted from 1948 to 1979.

Kid Colt was wrongly accused of murder. With evidence stacked against him, Kid Colt went on the run. With his horse Steel, Kid Colt helped people throughout the West while trying to clear his name. While Kid Colt Outlaw ended its run in 1979, Kid Colt has appeared occasionally in Marvel Comics ever since. Indeed, in the TV show Agent Carter, in one episode Howard Stark's movie studio was even making a movie based on Kid Colt, whom Stark calls a historical figure. Kid Colt remains relatively well known among comic book fans to this day, and with the renewed popularity of Westerns would make him a good hero of a feature film.

Millie the Model: Not only was the company that would eventually become known as Marvel Comics known for their Western titles prior to the Silver Age, but their humour titles as well. Starting in 1944 the company that would become Marvel would publish humour titles based around career women (Tessie the Typist, Nellie the Nurse). The company would go onto publish other humour titles, including the highly successful teen humour title Patsy Walker. Perhaps Marvel's most succes
sful humour title was Millie the Model. Millie was created by artist and writer Ruth Atkinson, and first appeared in Millie the Model no. 1, Winter 1945. Her title would run until issue no. 207, December 1973. Millie the Model would be important as a training ground for legendary artist Dan DeCarlo, the man who would later define the look of the Archie Comics characters for decades and would still later create Josie, of Josie and the Pussycats fame.

The "Millie" of Millie the Model was Millie Collins, who moved from the small town of Sleepy Gap, Kansas to New York City. There she met photographer Clicker Holbrook (who later became her boyfriend), who got her a job with the Hanover Modelling Agency. Her best friend was the wardrobe assistant at Hanover, Daisy. Her frenemy was fellow model Chili Storm. Since her title ended in 1973, Millie has appeared infrequently in the pages of Marvel Comics. Millie the Model remains fairly well known among fans of Marvel Comics. And while the character originated in the Forties, I could easily see Millie the Model adapted as a sex comedy of the variety for which Doris Day was best known, set in the late Fifties or early Sixties.

Tomahawk: The years 1946 and 1947 saw a boom in Western comic books, but one of DC Comics' most successful characters predated that era by around 100 years. Tomahawk first appeared in Star Spangled Comics no. 69, June 1947 and earned his own title with Tomahawk no. 1, September 1950. Tomahawk proved very successful, appearing in his own title until Tomahawk no. 130, October 1970. Afterwards it was taken over by Hawk, the son of Tomahawk, who proved much less successful. With Hawk as the star, the title only lasted another nine issues.

Tomahawk was Tom Hawk (given as Thomas Haukins in later stories), who had been raised by American Indians. He was called "Tomahawk" because of his skill with that weapon. He had served under George Washington during the French and Indian Wars. During the Revolutionary War he was the leader of Tomahawk's Rangers, a group who engaged in guerilla warfare against the British under the orders of George Washington. Among the Rangers were such colourful characters as Big Anvil (a huge blacksmith) and Frenchie (a former French sailor who joined the Rangers), among others. Tomahawk's sidekick was the youthful Dan Hunter.

Originally Tomahawk was featured in straight-forward Revolutionary War adventures, although, like many DC Comics of the time, in the late Fifties he would increasingly become involved in fantastic adventures involving everything from dinosaurs, tree-men, and a giant gorilla (a mainstay of DC Comics of the era). Fortunately, in the Sixties the title shifted back to straight forward Revolutionary War adventures. I figure any movie based on Tomahawk would eschew the fantastic adventures and instead concentrate on straight-forward Revolutionary War action. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Some Updates

Tonight I have to admit that I am at a bit of a loss as to what to write about. Sadly, so far this year it seems as if the vast majority of posts I have made have been eulogies, which tend to be my least favourite type of post. I have been told that I am very good at them, but the problem is that in order to write one someone has to die. Sadly, some of my favourites have died so far this year, including Carol Channing, Kaye Ballard, James Frawley, Dick Miller, Julie Adams, Albert Finney, and many others. I have sometimes complained that I don't want A Shroud of Thoughts to become "The Death Blog". Sadly, I think with 2019 it might become just that.

Of course, it doesn't help that I am really not in too much of a mood to write a blog post tonight anyway. It is now only a little over six months since Vanessa died and I am still trying to cope being without her. This was made worse by the fact that my birthday occurred only about a week after the anniversary. I enjoyed my birthday over all, but the fact that she was not in this world to offer her usual birthday greeting was all too obvious. I still miss her terribly.

Anyway, enough of dwelling on sadness. Probably the big news today was that Facebook and Instagram were both down at the same time for literally hours today It all started about 10:00 AM CDT. For myself, I was unable to comment on Facebook for a time and it seemed as if liking posts was hit and miss. It took me three tries to make one post. On top of this, my friends list on my profile wouldn't load at all. Instagram was actually worse than Facebook for me. I couldn't upload any photos and, after logging out, I could not log back in. Fortunately, everything seems to have been fixed a few minutes ago. Facebook has stated that the problems were not the result of a cyberattack, but they haven't said what caused the outage. Many people took to Twitter to vent about the outage. That having been said, I wasn't bothered that much by it. Anyone who reads this blog knows I am not a huge fan of Facebook. While I do like Instagram, I can do without it for awhile! Now a Twitter outage might be a different matter for me...

Here I want to point out that the 15th anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts is coming up on June 4. It is hard to believe that I have been writing this blog for nearly 15 years. My life has changed dramatically in that time, and yet the blog is still here. I would like to do something special for the 15th anniversary, but I have no idea what it would be.

Lastly, I want to remind everyone of my upcoming 5th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon from March 22 to March 25. You can read the rules here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Late, Great, Legendary Drummer Hal Blaine

The famous opening drum beats of The Ronettes' classic "Be My Baby"were performed by the same man who provided drums for Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter", and even the theme song to the TV show Batman. That man was drummer Hal Blaine, who was one of the legendary group of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew (in fact, he was the one who gave the group its name). Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys called him "the greatest drummer ever." There are many both in and outside the music industry who would agree with him. Hal Blaine died yesterday, March 11 2018, at the age of 90.

Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky on February 5 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. His family moved to Hartford, Connecticut when he was 7 years old. There he decided to learn drums when he was watching the fife and drum corps of the Roman Catholic school that was just across the street form his Hebrew school. It was not long before he was playing with that drum and fife corps. Mr. Blaine was 14 years old when his family moved to California. During the Korean War he served as a cartographer in the United States Army. After his service, Hal Blaine studied at a drum school in Chicago that was operated by Roy Knapp, who was also one of legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa's teachers. He eventually began to play drums professionally in clubs and spent part of the late Fifties playing with a jazz quartet. Over the next few years he would play with Tommy Sands and Patti Page, as well as serving as a substitute for regular drummer Sonny Payne with Count Basie's orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Although Hal Blaine thought of himself as a jazz drummer, by the Sixties he was established as a session drummer on pop records. The songs on which Mr. Blaine's drums can be heard are both numerous and varied. He did a good deal of work for Phil Spector, including work on the songs "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, "Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals, "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals (although actually performed by The Blossoms), and several others. He would also worked a good deal with The Beach Boys, so much so that on many of their records it is more likely one will hear Mr. Blaine's drums than Beach Boy member Dennis Wilson's. Among The Beach Boys' songs on which he played were "Barbara Ann", "California Girls", "God Only Knows", "Good Vibrations", and yet others. He played on several of Simon & Garfunkel's songs, including "The Boxer", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "A Hazy Shade of Winter", "I Am a Rock", and "Mrs. Robinson". He also played on several of The Monkees' songs, including "Mary, Mary", "Papa Gene's Blues", "Sweet Young Thing", and "Zor and Zam". Over the years Mr. Blaine played on records by such artists as Herb Alpert, The Byrds, Glenn Campbell, The Mamas and the Papas, Dean Martin, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Elvis Presley, Johnny Rivers, and Tommy Roe. In all, Hal Blaine played on 40 songs that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any other drummer in the Rock Era. He estimated that he played on over 35,000 recordings, 6000 of which were singles.

After the Eighties Hal Blaine played fewer sessions as a drummer on pop recordings, although he continued to work in television and on commercials. During his career he recorded his own albums, including Deuces, T's, Roadsters and Drums (1963), Drums! Drums! A Go Go (1966), Psychedelic Percussion (1967), Have Fun!!! Play Drums!!! (1968), and Buh-Doom (1998). 

It is hard to argue with Brian Wilson's assessment of Hal Blaine as "the greatest drummer ever". He was certainly prolific, and there can be no doubt that he was so much in demand because he was so very good at drums. Mr. Blaine could be very subtle, as he often was when he played on ballads, which included everything from Shelley Fabares's "Johnny Angel" to Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid". While Hal Blaine could be very subtle, he could also deliver powerful drum beats when needed. He played on such classic rock songs as Paul Revere and The Raiders' "Hungry", The Grass Roots' "Midnight Confessions", and Johnny Rivers's "Secret Agent Man". He was also had a jazz drummer's gift for improvisation. On Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", rather than simply play the drums, he created percussion by using tyre chains. As proof of Mr. Blaine's talent, one need only look at a short list of the songs on which he played. Over the years he played on some of the most legendary songs in rock history

Friday, March 8, 2019

Godspeed Katherine Helmond

Katherine Helmond, perhaps best known for her roles in Soap and Who's the Boss?, died on February 23 2019 at the age of 89.

Katherine Helmond was born on July 5 1929 in Galveston, Texas. Her parents divorced while she was young, and her mother eventually remarried. In junior high and high school she was involved in local community theatres. Once she graduated from high school she went to work for a professional theatre in Houston and then moved to New York City. She did summer stock, and ran a summer theatre in the Catskills with friends. Katherine Helmond made her film debut in a role in the film Wine of Morning in 1955. She made her television debut in an episode of Car 54, Where Are You? in 1962. She worked a good deal on the stage in New York, working with the Trinity Square Repertory Company in the mid-Sixties. She made her Broadway debut in Private Lives in 1969.

In the Seventies she appeared in such films as The Hospital (1971), The Hindenburg (1975), Family Plot (1976), and Baby Blue Marine (1976). In the Seventies she was cast in the role of Jessica Tate on the hit TV show Soap. She remained with the show for the entirety of its run. She also guest starred on such shows as Gunsmoke, The F.B.I., The Bob Newhart Show, The Snoop Sisters, Hec Ramsey, Mannix, Medical Center, Barnaby Jones, The Rookies, Harry-O, The Six Million Dollar Man, Petrocelli, and The Bionic Woman. She appeared on Broadway in The Great God Brown and Don Juan.

In the Eighties she continued to star on the TV show Soap. She also began a long run on the sitcom Who's the Boss?. She guest starred on such shows as Benson, Fantasy Island, Comedy Factory, and The Love Boat. She appeared in the films Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985), Shadey (1985), Overboard (1987), and Lady in White (1988).

In the Nineties she continued to appear on Who's the Boss. Miss Helmond had recurring roled on the sitcoms Coach and Everybody Loves Raymond. She was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series. She guest starred on such shows as The Elvira Show, Providence, and Strong Medicine. She appeared in the films Inside Monkey Zetterland (1992), Amore! (1994), The Flight of the Dove (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and The Perfect Nanny (2000). She appeared on Broadway in Mixed Emotions.

In the Naughts and the Teens Katherine Helmond appeared in the films Black Hole (2002), Collaborator (2011), and Frank and Ava (2018). She was the voice of Lizzie in the Pixar animated films Cars (2006), Cars 2 (2011), and Cars 3 (2017). She guest starred on the TV show The Glades, Melissa & Joey, True Blood, and Harry's Law.

Katherine Helmond was a talented actress with a particular gift for comedy and playing off-the-wall characters. She was great as the naive and sweet Jessica Tate on Soap and the man-crazy Mona Robinson on Who's the Boss?. She was incredible as socialite Ida Lowry in Brazil, a role for which she had to wear a great deal of makeup. Over the years Miss Helmond played a number of remarkable roles on both television and in film, and she always gave a good performance. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Godspeed Luke Perry

Luke Perry, who starred on the TV shows Beverly Hills 90210 and Riverdale, made numerous guest appearances on other shows, and appeared in such films as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) and The Fifth Element (1997), died on March 4 2019. The cause was complications from a massive stroke.

Luke Perry was born Coy Luther Perry III in Mansfield, Ohio. His parents got a divorce when he was six years old. His mother remarried and he moved with his mother to Fredricktown, Ohio. It was after he graduated from high school that he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He made his television debut in an uncredited part on an episode of the show Voyagers! in 1982. In 1985 he appeared in the video for the Twisted Sister video "Be Chrool to Your Scuel". He then moved to New York City where he appeared in an episode of the soap opera Loving and had an extended run on the soap opera Another World from 1988 to 1989. It was in 1990 that he began playing Dylan McKay on the TV series Beverly Hills 90210. He appeared in the movie Terminal Bliss (1990).

In the Nineties Mr. Perry continued to appear on Beverly Hills 90210. He provided voices on the animated TV shows Biker Mice from Mars, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, The Legend of Calamity Jane, and The Incredible Hulk. He was a guest voice on the animated shows The Simpsons, Pepper Ann, and Johnny Bravo. He guest starred on the show Spin City and appeared in the mini-series Invasion. He appeared in the movies Scorchers (1991), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), 8 Seconds (1994), Vacanze di Natale '95 (1995), Normal Life (1996), American Strays (1996), The Fifth Element (1997), Lifebreath (1997), The Florentine (1999), and Attention Shoppers (2000). He appeared on Broadway in The Rocky Horror Show.

In the Naughts Luke Perry had a recurring role on the TV show Oz in its fourth and fifth seasons. He was the star of the short-lived TV series Jeremiah and Windfall, and he had a recurring role on the shows John from Cincinnati and FCU: Fact Checkers Unit. He guest starred on the shows Night Visions, Will & Grace, What I Like About You, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Leverage. He appeared in such films as The Enemy (2001), Dirt (2001), Fogbound (2002), Alice Upside Down (2007), Upstairs (2001), Good Intentions (2010), Redemption Road (2010), and Hanna's Gold (2010).

In 2016 Luke Perry began playing Fred Andrews, father of the lead character Archie Andrews, on the TV show Riverdale. In the Teens he had recurring roles on the Body of Proof and Detective McLean. He guest starred on the shows Raising Hope, Community, Major Crimes, and Hot in Cleveland. He appeared in such films as Red Wing (2013), A Fine Step (2014), Black Beauty (2015), Dragon Warriors (2015), and The Griddle House (2018).

Luke Perry was an actor of considerable talent. Much of the success of Riverdale is largely due to the fact that he was very convincing as father Fred Andrews. And while Mr. Perry may be best known for playing a teen rebel and a loving father, he played a wide variety of other roles. On Oz he played somewhat shady preacher Jeremiah Cloutier. In the Leverage episode "The Future Job" he played crooked, phony psychic Dalton Rand. He played a gay birdwatcher and nature nerd on Will & Grace. The roles played by Mr. Perry were wide and varied: slacker Oliver Pike in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, professional bull rider Lane Frost in the movie 8 Seconds, and CDC Officer Dr. Charlie Stafford on the TV show Body of Proof, among other roles. He was equally capable of playing a hero or a villain or anything in between.

Of course, in addition to Fred Andrews on Riverdale, Luke Perry may be best known for playing Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210. Those too young who remember or those who were not born yet might not realise just how wildly popular Luke Perry as Dylan was in the early Nineties. His popularity dwarfed even that of Justin Beiber and One Direction in more recent years. It was not unusual for riots among young, teenage fans to break out at shopping malls where he appeared. Mr. Perry was not comfortable with his status as a teen idol. For one thing, he was not a teenager. He was 24 when he began playing on Beverly Hills 90210. For another, he always regarded himself simply as an ordinary guy who just happened to star on a TV show.

Despite not particularly liking his role as a teen idol, Luke Perry was always known for his kindness to his fans. In fact, he was known for his kindness to everyone. Upon most actors' deaths it is not unusual for the former co-stars to tweet tributes to them. In the case of Luke Perry, however, his fans tweeted stories of his many acts of kindness through the years. Many actors told how Mr. Perry always went out of his way to make them feel welcome on sets on which he was the star. When Riverdale co-star Hayley Law was having trouble buying a car, he offered to co-sign for it. If Luke Perry has been mourned so, it is perhaps not because he was a former teen idol or even a very talented actor. It was because he was a true gentleman who believed in treating everyone with dignity.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Beverley Owen Passes On

Beverley Owen, best known for playing Marilyn Munster for the first 13 episodes of The Munsters, died on February 21 2019 at the age of 81. She had battled ovarian cancer for the past two years.

Beverley Owen was born in Ottumwa, Iowa on May 13 1937.  She made her television debut in the soap opera As the World Turns in 1961. She guest starred on The DoctorsKraft Mystery Theatre, Wagon Train, and The Virginian. She was cast in the role of Marilyn, the beautiful blonde among a family of monsters, on the sitcom The Munsters. She played the role for 13 episodes before leaving to get married. The role of Marilyn Munster was taken over by Pat Priest. She returned to television in 1972 for a nine month run on the soap opera Another World. Afterwards she returned to school to study early American history. She earned a masters degree in American history in 1989.

I have no doubt that there are many younger Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers who had huge crushes on Beverly Owen as little boys. She was wonderful as Marilyn Munster, and not simply because she was blonde and beautiful. Miss Owen brought the right amount of wholesomeness, sweetness, and even  sex appeal to the role. Beverly Owen was perfectly suited to playing the girl next door, and it was a role she also played in her guest appearances.