Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bassist Mikey Welsh Passes On

Mikey Welsh, a former bassist for the power pop band Weezer and an artist, passed on 8 October 2011 at the age of 40. The cause was suspected to be a drug overdose.

Mikey Welsh was born in 20 April 1971 in Syracuse, New York. He started his musical career in the Boston, Massachusetts area, playing for bands ranging from Heretix to slower. He toured with Juliana Hatfield as a bassist. In 1997 he joined a side project of Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo, The Rivers Cuomo Band. After bassist Matat Sharp left Weezer in 1998, he joined the band as its bassist. He played on the band's album Weezer (also known as The Green Album) and toured with them into 2000. While Weezer was on hiatus he played with Verbena and The Special Goodness. He also contributed to Juliana Hatfield's album Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure.

In 2001 Mikey Welsh left Weezer due to what was later revealed to be a nervous breakdown. Bassist Scott Shriner was hired to take his place. In late 2001 and early 2002 he tried to return to music, joining the band The Kickovers for a brief period. It was not much later that he retired from music and moved to Vermont to be an artist. Over the years he had 13 exhibitions of his art. His work would be featured on a snowboard and he designed the cover to Twin Berlin's debut album.

Mr. Welsh would reunite with Weezer twice. The first time he played bass on the song "Hash Pipe" at a show in Essex Junction, Vermont in 2010. This year he played bass on "Undone" at a show in New York.

As a bassist Mikey Welsh fit Weezer perfectly. He provided their songs with a powerful bass line necessary to  the genre of power pop. Indeed, it is arguable that the song "Hash Pipe" from The Green Album would take a bassist of Mr. Welsh's calibre. He was also a very talented artist, working in abstracts. He was particularly gifted when it came to the use of very vivid colours. Both as a bassist and as an artist, the world lost a very talented individual with Mikey Welsh's passing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Actors Charles Napier, Diane Cilento, and Doris Belack Pass On

Charles Napier

Charles Napier, a prolific character who appeared in films from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) to Annapolis (2007), passed on 5 October 2011 at the age of 75.

Charles Napier was born on 12 April 1936 near Scottsville, Kentucky. After graduating high school he enlisted in the United States Army and served in the 11th Airborne Division. After his years in the service, Mr. Napier enrolled at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He developed an interest in acting while at college.

Mr. Napier made his debut on television in an episode of Mannix in 1968. In 1969 he appeared in the television shows Hogan's Heroes and Star Trek (in the notoriously bad episode "The Way to Eden," playing a "space hippie"). He appeared in the films The House Near Prado (1969), The Hanging of Jake Ellis (1969), Cherry, Harry, and Raquel (1970), and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. In the Seventies he appeared in such films as The Seven Minutes (1971), Love and Kisses (1971), Moonfire (1973), Supervixens (1975), Thunder and Lightning (1977), The Blues Brothers (1980), and Melvin and Howard (1980). He was a regular on the TV shows The Oregon Trail and B.J. and the Bear. He appeared on such shows as Mission: Impossible, Kojak, The Streets of San Francisco, Baretta, Kojak, Black Sheep Squadron, and The Rockford Files.

In the Eighties Mr. Napier appeared in such movies as China Lake (1983), Swing Shift (1984), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Kidnapped (1987), Married to the Mob (1988), and Dragonflight (1990). He was a regular on the TV series Outlaws and appeared in the mini-series The Blue and the Grey. He appeared on such shows as The Incredible Hulk, Private Benjamin, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Dallas, Night Court, and The A-Team. In the Nineties he appeared in such movies as The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993), Philadelphia (1993), Jury Duty (1995), Original Gangstas (1996), The Cable Guy (1996), Steel (1997), and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. He was one of the regular voices on the animated TV series The Critic and also provided voices for Superman: The Animated Series. He appeared on such TV shows as L.A. Law, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

In the Naughts Charles Napier provided the voice of Zed on Men in Black: The Series and Reverend Nat Potterson on God, The Devil, and Bob. He appeared on such shows as The Practice, The Legend of Tarzan, Monk, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He appeared as a guest voice on The Simpsons, Justice League, and Archer. He appeared in such films as Lords of Dogtown (2005) and Annapolis (2006).

Charles Napier generally played square jawed, military officers, tough as nails detectives, and other rough and tumble types. In fact, his best known roles may be that of the villain, Murdock, in Rambo: First Blood Part Two and Tucker McElroy, the hot tempered leader of a country band, in The Blues Brothers. While he was best known for playing rather rugged types, however, Mr. Napier was a versatile actor who could play many other sorts of characters. In Philadelphia he played the thoughtful Judge Garnett, while Married to the Mob he played Angela's hairdresser. Both roles were a far cry from the usual square jawed types he played. Even when the material was not particularly good, Mr. Napier could give a solid performance. He was convincing as the space hippie Adam in the otherwise wretched Star Trek episode "The Way to Eden." Mr. Napier was also a gifted voice actor, lending his voice everything from action adventure cartoons (Superman) to comedies (The Critic). Charles Napier was one of the great character actors of the last few decades of the 20th Century, one who will be missed.

Diane Cilento

Diane Cilento, an actress who appeared in films from Tom Jones (1963) to The Wicker Man (1973), passed on 6 October 2011, a day after her 78th birthday.

Diane Cilento was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 5 October 1933. Her parents, both doctors, moved to New York City while she was still young. Miss Cilento later moved to London, where she attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  In 1951 she made her film debut providing the voice for Mrs. Hornblower in the movie Captain Horatio Hornblower R. N. She made her debut on screen in the film All Hallowe'en in 1952. Throughout the Fifties she appeared in such films as Moulin Rouge (1952), Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953), The Truth About Women (1957), and Stop Me Before I Kill (1960). She appeared on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, and The Alcoa Hour.

In the Sixties she appeared in such films as The Naked Edge (1961), Tom Jones (1963, for which she received an Oscar nomination), The Agony and The Ecstasy (1965), and  Hombre (1967). She appeared on such TV shows as ITV Television Playhouse, Espionage, and Blackmail. She was a regular on the show Rogue's Gallery. In the Seventies she appeared in the films Z.P.G. (1972) and The Wicker Man. She appeared on such shows as The Persuaders, Thriller (the British series), and Tycoon. In the Eighties she appeared in the films Duet for Four (1982) and The Boy Who Had Everything (1985). In the Nineties she was a regular on Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left.

Doris Belack

Doris Belack, a character actress who appeared on stage, in films, and on television, passed on 4 October 2011 at the age of 85.

Doris Belack was born on 26 February 1926 in New York City. She made her television debut in 1951 in an episode of Treasury Men in Action. In 1960 she made her debut on Broadway in Semi-Detatched. She would appear regularly on the Broadway stage, in such plays as The Heroine, Bad Habits, Cheaters, and The Cemetery Club. From the Sixties into the Seventies she would appear on such shows as East Side/West Side, The Patty Duke Show, and Barney Miller. She appeared in the films Looking Up (1971) and The Black Marble (1980).

In the Eighties Miss Belack was a regular on the show Baker's Dozen. She appeared on such shows as The Cosby Show, Remington Steele, The Golden Girls, and The Equaliser. She appeared in such films as Hanky Panky (1982), Tootsie (1982), The Luckiest Man in the World (1989), and Opportunity Knocks (1990).  In the Nineties she was a regular on the TV show Laurie Hill. She appeared on such shows as Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, Sisters, and Law & Order. She appeared in such films as What About Bob (1991), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), What's Your Sign (1997), Krippendorf's Tribe (1998). and The Odd Couple II (1998). In the Naughts she appeared in the shows Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Everwood. She appeared in the films Prime (2005) , Delirious (2006), and Arranged (2007).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Songwiriter & Actor David Hess In Memoriam

David Hess, who wrote songs for Elvis Presley and later became a well known actor in grindhouse cinema, passed yesterday, 8 October 2011, at the age of 69.

David Hess was born in New York City on 19 September 1942.  In 1957 he went to work as a songwriter for Shalimar Music, where he wrote under the pen name David Hill. He wrote "Start Movin'" for Sal Mineo and "Rockin' Shoes" for The Ames Brother. He wrote several songs for Elvis Presley, including "I Got Stung (later covered by The Beatles, but never released and later covered by Sir Paul McCartney)," "Come Along," and "Sand Castles, "  In 1963 he wrote the novelty song "Speedy Gonzalez" for Pat Boone. He also wrote "Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love" for Andy Williams. Mr. Hess also recorded two solo albums on Kapp Records in the Sixties and had a minor hit with the song "Two Brothers."

It was in 1969 that David Hess became the head of A&R at Mercury Records. There he joined forces with classical composer John Corigliano to create the electronic rock opera. The Naked Carmen. With Irish actor Malachy McCourt he wrote the album And the Children Toll the Passing of the Day.

It was in 1972 that Mr. Hess began his acting career, appearing as the head villain, Krug Stillo, in Wes Craven's cult horror classic Last House on the Left. He also composed the soundtrack for the movie. In the Seventies he would go onto appear in the films Montana Trap (1976), The Swiss Conspiracy (1976), The Naked Prey (1977), Avalanche Express (1979), and House on the Edge of the Park (1980). In 1980 he directed his first film, To All a Goodnight. From 1972 to 1976 he lived in Munich where he dubbed films into English. He adapted the scripts of directors ranging from Werner Fassbinder to Reinhard Hauff into English. He guest starred on the TV series Baretta. As a musician he scored the children's film Buck at the Edge of Heaven and worked for Polygram Records.

In the Eighties Mr. Hess appeared in such films as Swamp Thing (1982), White Star (1983), Body Count (1985), Armed and Dangerous (1986), and Let's Get Harry (1986). He appeared on such TV shows as Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, The A-Team, and Manimal, as well as the mini-series Ocean. From the Nineties into the Naughts he appeared in such films as Jonathan degli orsi (1995), Nutcraker (2001), Zombie Nation (2004), Zodiac Killer (2005), The Absence of Light (2006), Fallen Angels (2006), and Smash Cut (2009). He guest starred on the TV show Royal Pains.  He directed the film Steel Drums, Not Guns (2010).  He provided songs for the soundtrack to the film Cabin Fever (2002) and released two albums, Caught Up in the Moment and Live & Unplugged in Hollywood.

As an actor David Hess was best known for playing villains, if not outright monsters. In fact, after almost forty years his most famous role is still probably Krug from Last House on the Left. While Mr. Hess may not have played a large variety of roles, however, I have no doubt that he was quite talented as an actor. I never had the opportunity to meet David Hess or even correspond with him, but I have known many who have and yet others were actually friends with him. Each of them have the same thing to say about David Hess--he was one of the sweetest men one could ever know. He was a man who always had a kind word when one was needed and who always supported his friends in whatever they did. Quite simply, in all of those films in which Mr. Hess very convincingly played monstrous character and did so very convincingly, he was playing the polar opposite of what he was really like in real life. Any actor can play a character who is like himself in real life. It takes an actor of great talent to play a character who is his exact opposite.

For much of his later life emphasis has been placed on David Hess's career in film. This is perhaps unfortunate has it tends to overlook the fact that he was a great songwriter and even a singer in his own right. David Hess wrote one of the best Elvis Presley songs of all time, "I Got Stung," as well as "Come Along," "Speedy Gonzalez,""Sand Castles," and "Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love." The soundtrack he wrote for Last House on the Left remains one of the best soundtracks ever written for a horror movie. David Hess was then not only a talented actor, but a talented songwriter as well. A talented actor and a talented songwriter, David Hess was proof that nice guys do not always finish last.