Saturday, January 29, 2011

Comedian Charlie Callas Pases On

Comedian Charlie Callas passed on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at the age of 83.

Charlie Callas was born on December 20, 1927 in Brooklyn. As a teenager he took up the drums. He served in World War II, after which he began playing with various bands, including Tommy Dorsey. While he performed he would engage in comedy routines. His comedy routines proved so popular that he turned to stand up comedy full time in 1962. It was only two years later that he received his big break, appearing on The Hollywood Palace in 1964. Throughout the Sixties he would appear on such shows as The Jimmy Dean Show, The Munsters, The Monkees, The Merv Griffin Show. The Johnny Cash Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Kraft Music Hall, and The Flip Wilson Show. He appeared in the film The Big Mouth.

In the Seventies Mr. Callas appeared on such shows as Love American Style, The Snoop Sisters, The Movie Game, The David Frost Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and The Mike Douglas Show. He was a regular on the shows Switch and The ABC Comedy Hour. He appeared in the films Silent Movie (1972) and High Anxiety (1977). He was the voice of Elliot the Dragon in Pete's Dragon (1977). In the Eighties he appeared on such shows as Hollywood Squares, Hart to Hart, The Fall Guy, L. A. Law, D. C. Follies, It's Gary Shanlding's Show, and L. A. Law. . He appeared History of the World Part I (1981) Hysterical (1983), and Amazon Women on the Moon (1987). He provided his voice in the film Gallavants (1984).

From the Nineties into the Naughts he Charlie Callas appeared on the shows Silk Stalkings, The Ren and Stimpy Show, and Cybill. He appeared in the films Vampire Vixens from Venus (1995), and Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995). His last appearance on screen was in Horrorween (2011), due to be released this year.

Charlie Callas was a brilliant comedian with a gift for one liners. His delivery came at a mile at minute. He also had a gift for making the most unusual sounds, from the sound of  a duck to the sound of a shotgun. He could also think very fast on his feet, able to extemporise the most hilarious lines on the spot. Mr. Callas was a very funny comic and he will be missed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Actor Bruce Gordon R.I.P.

Actor Bruce Gordon, who played gangster Frank Nitti on The Untouchables, passed on January 20, 2011, at the age of 94.

Bruce Gordon was born February 1, 1916 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He made his debut on Broadway in the musical The Fireman's Flame in1937. He would go on to appear in such plays on Broadway as Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), King Richard II (1951),The Pink Elephant (1953), The Lark (1955), and Diamond Orchid (1965). He made his movie debut in The Naked City in 1948. He would have his first substantial film role with Love Happy (1949).

Throughout the Fifties Mr. Gordon appeared frequently on television. He played the lead in the 1958-1959 series Behind Closed Doors. In the Westingohouse Desilu Playhouse episode "The Untouchables" he played Al Capone's second in command and heir apparent Frank Nitti. When the episode was spun off into a series in 1959, Bruce Gordon was  semi-regular in the same role. He also appeared on such shows as The Goldbergs, The Man Behind the Badge, You Are There, Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Theatre, M Squad, Zane Grey Theatre, Whirlybirds, Have Gun--Will Travel, Alcoa Presents One Step Beyond, Playhouse 90, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, 77 Sunset Strip, and Gunsmoke. He also appeared in the films The Buccaneer (1958), Curse of the Undead (1959), and Key Witness (1960).

In the Sixties Bruce Gordon played Gus Chernak on the show Peyton Place. He appeared on such shows as Maverick, Peter Gunn, Death Valley Days, Route 66, Car 54 Where Are You, Naked City, The Defenders, Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., He & She, Get Smart, Mannix, Tarzan, Ironside, and Bonanza. He appeared in the films Rider on a Dead Horse (1962), Tower of London (1962), Slow Run (1968), and Hello Down There (1969).

From the Seventies into the Eighties Mr. Gordon appeared in such shows as Here's Lucy, Adam-12, The Doris Day Show, Banacek, The Fall Guy, and Simon & Simon, He appeared in the films Piranha (1978) and Timerider (1982).

Bruce Gordon was a versatile actor. In his long career he played cops and criminals, grocers and grandfathers. And he did all of them well. Although best known as Frank Nitti on The Untouchables, he should be remembered for much more.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gladys Horton of The Marvelettes R.I.P.

Gladys Horton of The Marvelettes, the girl group who set the stage for the Motown girl groups to come, passed on January 26, 2011 at the age of 66. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Gladys Horton was born in Detroit in 1944. She took an interest in singing while still fairly young. She was only fifteen when she formed the Casinyets with Georgeanna Tillman, Katherine Anderson and Juanita Cowart. and Georgia Dobbins. A performance at a 1961 talent show led to one of their teachers arranging an audition for Barry Gordy at Motown. The label signed The Marvelettes, making them Motown's first girl group. It was in the summer of 1961 that Motown released their first single, "Please, Mr. Postman," which went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group would have another hit with "Playboy" and "Beechwood 4-5789" in `1962.

From 1963 to 1964, none of The Marvelettes' singles reached the top forty, but they would make a comeback in late 1964 with "Too Many Fish in the Sea," which went to #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in 1965 with "Don't Mess with Bill," which went to #7. They would have three more hit singles, "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game," "When You're Young and in Love," and "My Baby Must Be a Magician." Gladys Horton would leave The Marvelettes in 1967, in part to care for her disabled son. Miss Horton would later reunite with The Marvelettes in the Eighties, performing as Gladys Horton and The Marvelettes.

The Marvelettes would have an huge impact on the history of pop music. As Motown's first girl group, they paved the way for such groups as Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes, as well as girl groups on other labels, such as The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. Much of the reason for the group's success was Gladys Horton's powerful voice. She sang lead on their major hits, including their first one, "Please, Mr. Postman." It is significant that the group's fortunes declined after she left in 1967. As a lead vocalist for one of the earliest girl groups, Gladys Horton will be remembered.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Late,Great Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne, the man who advocated fitness and good nutrition for over seventy years, passed Sunday afternoon, 23 January 2011 at the age of 95. The cause was respiratory failure due to pneumonia.

Jack LaLanne was born Francois Henri LaLanne in San Francisco, California on 26 September 1914. It was his older brother who nicknamed him "Jack."  At age fifteen Mr. LaLanne was a troubled teenager and not particularly healthy. His mother took him to talk held by health food guru Paul C. Bragg at a local women's club. The talk literally changed his life. He began working out, studied Gray's Anatomy to learn about the muscles of the body, and improved his diet. He attended and graduated from Oakland Chiropractic College in San Francisco, but instead of opening a chiropractic practice, instead in 1936, at age 21, Jack LaLannne opened his first health spa. The spa was the predecessor to all modern health clubs, not only including a gym but a store and a juice bar as well.  He designed the ancestors of modern exercise machines, complete with leg extensions and pulleys. He also encouraged women, the elderly, and even the disabled to exercise. There was a good deal of initial resistance to Mr. LaLanne's message of exercise and good nutrition, with many physicians believing him a charlatan.

Despite his naysayers, Jack LaLanne proved to be a success. It was in 1951 that The Jack LaLanne Show debuted on local television in San Francisco. In 1958 it went nationwide. Its success lie in the fact that Mr. LaLanne addressed each member of the audience as if they were in the studio with him.In the early days he often featured his white German shepherd Happy. The Jack LaLanne Show ran 34 years. It would later be rerun on ESPN and is now available online at YouTube and elsewhere.

Over the years Jack LaLanne would perform a number of incredible feats. At age 40 he swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge under water and with 140 pounds of equipment strapped to him. At age 41 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf while handcuffed. In 1976, in commemoration of the American Bicentennial, Mr. LaLanne swam one mile in Long Beach Harbour while handcuffed, shackled, and towing thirteen boats containing 76 people. At age 70 he swam one mile from the Queen's Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbour while handcuffed and shackled, and towing seventy rowboats, one with many people aboard.

Jack LaLanne would eventually have over 200 Jack LaLanne European Health Spas nationwide. He later licensed them to Bally. He also published several books on fitness and nutrition, as well as made videos and marketed a number of electric juicers. He also recorded a record album on fitness, released in 1959. Starting in 2007, he also appeared on Voice America Health and Wellness Radio Network on the radio show Jack LaLanne Live with his wife Elaine and his nephew Chris LaLanne. He also appeared in movies and TV Shows, including guest appearances on the shows Peter Gunn, Mister Ed, The Addams Family, Batman, Laugh In, The Simpsons, and Life with Bonnie. He appeared in the telefilm More Wild Wild West. He appeared in the films The Ladies Man (1961), The Happy Ending (1969), and Repossessed (1990).

It would not be exaggerating to call Jack LaLanne both a pioneer and a revolutionary. Almost fifty years before the fitness craze of the Eighties, Jack LaLanne was preaching fitness and nutrition to America. Thirty years before the first work out videos, he was guiding Americans through workouts on The Jack LaLanne Show. In fact, I dare say it would not be exaggerating to say that Mr. LaLanne virtually created the fitness craze. After all, for years he had been the only one telling Americans about working, nutrition, and good health. Even after the fitness craze of the Eighties established fitness as part of the American landscape, Jack LaLanne would be a pioneer. He showed Americans how to grow old gracefully, working out well into his nineties.

I can remember watching Jack LaLanne as a very young child, and even then I know why Jack LaLanne was so successful. He was no dumb jock by any means, but a man who was intelligent, charming, and personable, making you feel right at home watching his show. What is more it seemed as if he truly cared about his viewers, not encouraging to live healthier lives to sell more books, but instead to live better lives. A true pioneer who virtually crated the fitness industry, Jack LaLanne will be remembered for a long time to come.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Video Tribute to Scarlett O'Hara

I have had Windows Movie Maker on this PC ever since I bought it six years ago, but I had never used it. This weekend I finally decided to make a video using it. A lot of my friends have made tribute videos of their favourite actors and actresses, so I thought I should join in on the fun. Of course, I then decided it would not be a tribute to an actress so much as a famous movie character--Scarlett O'Hara. I then decided that rather than going with some standard, I would go with power pop band's remake of The Monkees' "She." My reasoning is that if Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara had lived in the 1960's instead of the 1860's, he probably would have identified the song with her!

So here it is, my video directorial debut (at least using a PC--I have made videos with a camera)....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Comics Code Authority R.I.P.

Last week on 20 January 2011 DC Comics made the momentous announcement that they were leaving the Comics Code Authority. The next day Archie Comics announced that they were also leaving the Comics Code Authority. Archie Comics also stated that their decision was not influenced by DC Comics, as they had made their decision to leave a year ago. DC and Archie were the last two members of the Comics Code Authority. With their departure, then, the Comics Code Authority is effectively defunct.

For those who are wondering, the Comics Code Authority was a body for self censorship founded by members of the Comic Magazine Association of America. It was established in 1954, a year when public outcry against violence contained in comic books reached its peak. It was the year that the book Seduction of the Innocent, the famous attack on comic books by Dr. Fredric Wertham, was published. It was also the year that a hearing was held on comic books by the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, headed by Senator Estes Kefauver. As shocking as it might seem now, comic books were even burned in some areas.

Despite the moral panic over comic magazines in 1954, it was important to remember that at no point was there any threat of government censorship of the medium. Kefauver's hearing on comic books was itself inconclusive. That having been said, the industry was under fire from the public at large to the point that creating a self censorship body must have seemed like a wise move at the time. The Comic Magazine Association of America itself described the Comics Code as "...the strictest in existence for any communications media (sic)." The Comics Code in its original form was indeed strict. It forbade the use of the words "horror," "terror," or "crime" in titles, and even forbade the portrayal of vampires and werewolves.

Over the years the Comics Code would be revised. In 1971 the Code was revised to allow "...vampires, ghouls and werewolves... when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world" and "... corruption among public long as it is portrayed as exceptional and the culprit is punished." The Comics Code would be revised again several times over the years, each time growing less strict than it had originally been.

Indeed, various comic book companies began publishing magazines for more adult audiences, an example being DC Comics and its Vertigo imprint. These more adult titles were not submitted to the Comics Code Authority for approval. In 2001, Marvel Comics abandoned the Comics Code in favour of their own ratings system. It was then perhaps only a matter of time before DC and Archie would abandon the Code.

While many may claim that the Code had little authority in the past several years, its passing is still significant. The Comics Code in its original form was indeed strict, more so even than the Motion Picture Association's Production Code in the Thirties and Forties. It is not without good reason that many blame the Comics Code Authority for reducing comic books to little more than children's literature for many, many years following its implementation. Indeed, the changes wrought by the Code in the industry were enormous. The vast majority of horror titles disappeared almost overnight. Batman went from battling such deadly foes as Two Face and Catwoman to fighting aliens and travelling through time.In the wake of the Comics Code sales dropped to the point that many comic book companies went out of business (in fact, what is now known as Marvel very nearly did). Even as the Comics Code weakened over the years, it remained as a reminder of a dark period in comic book history, when the industry was under attack from all sides. That the Comics Code Authority no longer exists in then significant. It shows that the comic book industry at last feels safe enough to be free from what perhaps the strictest self censorship body in the world.