Saturday, February 2, 2019

Godspeed Clive Swift

Clive Swift, perhaps best known as Hyacinth's long-suffering husband Richard Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances, died on February 1 2019 at the age of 82.

Clive Swift was born on February 9 1936 in Liverpool. His older brother, David, was also an actor. Clive Swift attended Clifton College in Bristol and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In 1960 he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, only one year after it had been chartered under its current name. Mr. Swift remained with the company until 1968. He later taught at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Clive Swift made his television debut in an edition of Theatre Night in 1961. He had a recurring role on the comedy Dig the Rhubarb and appeared in the mini-series Dombey and Son. He had a recurring role on Thirty-Minute Theatre. on He guest starred on the shows Love Story, Compact, Knock on Any Door, Public Eye, Way With Words, The Expert, Canterbury Tales, The Wednesday Play,and  ITV Saturday Night Theatre. Clive Swift made his film debut in The Dave Clark Five movie Catch Us If You Can in 1965. He also appeared in A Midsummer's Night Dream (1968).

In the Seventies Mr. Swift appeared in the films Frenzy (1972), Death Line (1972), The National Line (1973), Man at the Top (1973), and The Sailor's Return (1978).  He appeared in the TV series Clayhanger and The Nesbitts Are Coming. He appeared in the mini-series South Riding and A Family Affair. He guest starred on the TV shows  The Misfit, The Liver Birds, Villains, Dead of Night, The Pearcross Girls, The Frighteners, Whodunnit?, The Brothers, Victorian Scandals, Play for Today, BBC2 Play of the Week, 1990, Jackanory Playhouse, Send in the Girls, Shadows, A Horseman Riding By, Hazell, Cribb, and BBC2 Playhouse.

In the Eighties he appeared in the films Excalibur (1981), Memed My Hawk (1984), and Il giovane Toscanini (1988). On television he appeared in the mini-series The Barchester Chronicles and First Among Equals. Mr. Swift played Mr. Tupman in the television adaptation of The Pickwick Papers. He guest starred on the shows Tales of the Unexpected, The New Adventures of Lucky Jim, Doctor Who, Inspector Morse, A Very Peculiar Practice, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Les Girls, Double First, Minder, Laura and Disorder, Storyboard, Gentlemen and Players, Hard Cases, The Return of Shelley, Theatre Night, and This is David Harper.

In the Nineties he starred as Richard on Keeping Up Appearances and Norman on Peak Practice. He appeared in the mini-series Aristocrats. He guest starred on the TV shows Boon, Heartbeat, Woof!, and The Famous Five. He appeared in the movie Gatson's War (1997). In the Naughts Clive Swift starred in the TV shows Born and Bred and Old Guys. He guest starred on Doctor Who and Little Crackers. He appeared in the film Vacuums (2003).

In the Teens Clive Swift guest starred on Hustle, Cuckoo, SunTrap, and Midsomer Murders. He appeared in the miniseries Valentine's Kiss

Clive Swift was an extremely talented actor. He could be very subtle, relaying a good deal of emotion through a simple facial expression. There should be little wonder he left an impression as Richard Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances. His talent came in useful in his many appearances on British television. No matter how brief he was on screen, the characters played by Mr. Swift had fully developed personalities. He will always be remembered for Keeping Up Appearances, but he leaves legacy of fine performances.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Late Great Dick Miller

Dick Miller, the famous character actor who appeared in such films as A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Big Bad Mama (1974), and Gremlins (1984), died on January 30 2019 at the age of 90.

Dick Miller was born on December 25 1928 in the Bronx. He served in the United States Navy and then attended the City College of New York and Columbia University. He worked at the Bellevue Hospital Mental Hygiene Clinic and the psychiatric department of Queens General Hospital.

It was in 1952 that Mr. Miller moved to California. He made his film debut in 1955 in the movie Apache Woman. Over the next few years he appeared in such films as The Oklahoma Woman (1956), Gunslinger (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Naked Paradise (1957),   Not of This Earth (1957), Sorority Girl (1957), A Bucket of Blood (1959), and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). He made his television debut in an episode of Whirlybirds in 1958.  In the late Fifties he also guest starred in the shows as M Squad, Dragnet, The Gale Storm Show, and The Untouchables.

In the Sixties Dick Miller appeared in such films as Capture That Capsule (1961), Premature Burial (1962), The Terror (1963), Wild Wild Winter (1966), The Wild Angels (1966), A Time for Killing (1967), The Trip (1967), and The Wild Racers (1968). He appeared on the TV shows The Roaring 20's, The Lawless Years, Our Man Higgins, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Virginian, Branded, Combat!, and Mannix.

In the Seventies Mr. Miller appeared in such films as Night Call Nurses (1972), The Student Nurses (1973), The Slams (1973), Executive Action (1973), The Young Nurses (1973), Truck Turner (1974), Big Bad Mama (1974), Candy Stripe Nurses (1974), Summer School Teachers (1974), Capone (1975), White Line Fever (1975), Darktown Strutters (1975), Crazy Mama (1975), Hollywood Boulevard (1976), Cannonball! (1976), Moving Violation (1976), Mr. Billion (1977), New York, New York (1977), Game Show Models (1977), Starhops (1977), I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), Corvette Summer (1978), Piranha (1978), The Lady in Red  (1979), Rock 'n ' Roll High School (1979), 1941 (1979), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980), Used Cars (1980), and Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980). He appeared on such TV shows as McCloud, Police Woman, Police Story, Hunter, Soap, Alice, Barnaby Jones, and General Hospital.

In the Eighties Dick Miller appeared in such films as The Howling (1981), Heartbeeps (1981), Movie Madness (1982), White Dog (1982), Heart Like a Wheel (1983), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Space Raiders (1983), All the Right Moves (1983), Swing Shift (1984), Gremlins (1984), The Terminator (1984), Explorers (1985), After Hours (1985), Chopping Mall (1986), Project X (1987), Innerspace (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Ghost Writer (1989), and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). He had recurring roles on the TV shows Fame and The Flash. He guest starred on such shows as Open All Night, Police Squad!, Taxi, Knot's Landing, Tales from the Darkside, Amazing Stories, Moonlighting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Who's the Boss.

In the Nineties Mr. Miller appeared in such films Motorama (1991), Unlawful Entry (1992), Matinee (1993), Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), and Small Soldiers (1998). He provided a voice for the animated feature film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993). He guest starred in such TV shows as Roc; Eerie, Indiana; Fallen Angels; Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Weird Science; ER; Clueless; NYPD Blue; and Snoops. He was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series.

In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Route 666 (2001), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Trapped Ashes (2006), and 3rd Shift: Michael's Lament (2009).  He guest starred on the TV show Karen Sisco and provided a guest voice on the animated series Justice League Unlimited. In the Teens he appeared in the films Burying the Ex (2014) and The Adventures of Biffle and Shooster (2015). He is set to appear in the horror movie Hanukkah.

Even though his career unfolded form the Fifties to the Teens, in many ways Dick Miller was a throwback to the character actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He appeared in everything from major supporting roles to roles that only had a few minutes' worth of screen time. What is more, he played a wide variety of characters, everything from psychopaths to gangsters to scientists to law enforcement officers. Dick Miller played characters named Walter Paisley multiple times, first in  A Bucket of Blood. Mr. Miller was a remarkable actor who was capable of making even the most off-the-wall characters seem believable. There have been very few actors quite like him and it seems likely that there won't be many more.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Truth About Vanessa Marquez

It is unfortunate that rumours, often founded on no or little truth at all, spread after the death of a celebrity. A number of reprehensible rumours spread following the murders of Sharon Tate and four others by members of the Manson family in 1969, some of which placed the blame for their deaths on the victims themselves. In the book Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger published a scurrilous, racist, and wholly untrue account of actress Lupe Vélez's death that is still accepted as fact by many today. Singer Cass "Mama Cass" Elliot died from heart failure in her sleep at age 32, but an urban legend has persisted ever since that she died choking on a sandwich.

Sadly, among the celebrities about whom rumours have spread following her death is my beloved Vanessa Marquez. These rumours are particularly hurtful to me as Vanessa was not only my best friend, but literally the love of my life. We were in contact nearly every day, through various social media sites, through texts, and through phone calls that often lasted hours. Each of us knew secrets about the other that no one else knew. Knowing Vanessa Marquez as well as I did and loving her as much as I do, it then hurts for various media outlets to print outright untruths about her. Many of these untruths have been published by the tabloids, who have never had any real concern with printing the truth, but some have appeared in the mainstream press as well. Regardless of the motivations of these media outlets, I thought I would then address some of the misinformation about my Vanessa being disseminated by various media outlets.

1. Vanessa Marquez Had a Number of Health Problems: One fact that has been ignored in many media accounts of Vanessa's death is that she was not a particularly healthy woman. In the Naughts she was diagnosed with stage 2 refractory coeliac disease. Among the symptoms of refractory coeliac disease are extreme abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. It was not unusual for Vanessa to be unable to eat for several days at a time, and she had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, let alone gaining weight.

In addition to refractory coeliac disease, Vanessa also had fibromyalgia. Because of fibromyalgia, she experienced pain all over her body, fatigue, disturbances in her sleep, tingling in her hands and feet, and muscle spasms. Vanessa often had difficulty walking and it was not unusual for her to have to rely upon a walker or even a wheelchair.

In addition to refractory coeliac disease and fibromyalgia, Vanessa also experienced seizures regularly, although their cause was never determined. It was not unusual for Vanessa to lose consciousness due to seizures. It was also not unusual for Vanessa to experience a period of confusion following a seizure. The time it took for Vanessa to recover from a seizure varied. It could be a few minutes or it could be hours. While Vanessa always looked beautiful in her pictures and much younger than she really was, her health was generally poor much of her life.

2. Vanessa Did Not Have an Eating Disorder: Contrary to early reports regarding Vanessa's death, she did not have an eating disorder. I can only assume that these false reports of an eating disorder originated from the fact that she was very thin. As noted above, Vanessa had refractory coeliac disease, a disease which makes it very difficult to maintain a healthy weight, let alone gain weight. On top of this, for her entire life Vanessa had a very high metabolism that made it difficult for her to gain weight. This is a problem I have also had all my life. I am five foot five and the most I have ever weighed in my entire life is 130 pounds. Vanessa used to joke about "our tiny, little bodies." It is for that reason I find the falsehood that she had an eating disorder particularly insulting.

3. Vanessa Did Not Have "Mental Problems": Whatever difficulties Vanessa might have experienced earlier in her life, Vanessa exhibited no mental disorders other than compulsive shopping (something she fully admitted to) in the many years I knew her. In our many conversations on the phone, she was always lucid and rational. The same was true of her many texts to me. On various social media sites she was capable of writing eloquent pieces on everything from politics to television shows. Vanessa Marquez was saner than a good number of people I know. I would seriously question the claims of anyone that she was mentally ill.

4. Vanessa Was NOT Suicidal: Not only did Vanessa exhibit no symptoms of any mental disorders beyond compulsive shopping, but she never expressed a desire to kill herself in the entire time I knew her. Vanessa was never suicidal, nor did she ever express a desire to harm herself. In the days leading up to her death, Vanessa was very much looking forward to life, even given the difficulties with her health. In the days before her death, Vanessa and I talked about the X-Files marathon that was going to air on BBC America upon that show's 25th anniversary in September. She was also very excited about a John Williams concert that was going to be held in Southern California. As always, we talked about the day when I could visit her. She talked with a mutual friend about a sale on cosmetics that was being held that weekend. Individuals who want to commit suicide do not plan ahead, nor do they talk about the future. Despite experiencing refractory coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, and seizures, Vanessa never lost her sunny disposition nor her enthusiasm for the things she loved.

5. Vanessa Was Not a Recluse: Although no media outlets have come right out and said so, there are those that have implied that Vanessa was some sort of crazy recluse. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that because she had difficulty moving around she did not get out a whole lot. That having been said, she did go out when she felt up to it,. She went to see the Batman '66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum in January 2018. She also had a wide circle of friends with whom she talked regularly on the phone, texted with on the phone, and interacted with on various social media services. Vanessa and I were in contact nearly every single day. Paula Guthat referred to Vanessa as "the Sweetheart of #TCMParty", #TCMParty being the group of Turner Classic Movies fans who live tweet movies on the channel using that hashtag. Vanessa was a sweet, gentle woman with a wide number of friends, all of who loved her dearly. She was not Howard Hughes by any stretch of the imagination.

Here I want to stress that there have been many media outlets that have been very responsible in their coverage of the death of Vanessa Marquez. Many went to the trouble to talk with Vanessa's friends (myself included), and their stories on Vanessa's death were both balanced and sympathetic. They treated Vanessa like the warm, wonderful human being she was. Unfortunately, there have also been those who published stories without checking their facts or bothering to look any further than flawed, initial reports of her death. A very few, the tabloids, have even used a tactic employed by the old scandal magazine Confidential, that of taking a kernel of fact and then lacing it with a good deal of innuendo and suggestion.  As someone who loved Vanessa desperately and still loves her, such behaviour on the part of various media outlets only serves to make even more painful what has been the most painful situation in my life. They not only show no respect for Vanessa, but no respect for those of us who loved her as well.

Vanessa Marquez was a warm, loving, gentle, and giving woman who was loved by a good many people. She had a very wide circle of friends with whom she was in contact regularly. Even given her poor health, she was always enthusiastic about life. She was also a talented actress who still has a legion of fans around the world. Vanessa deserves much better than the picture of her painted by some media outlets. She deserves to be remembered as the remarkable woman she truly was.