Saturday, August 10, 2019

Comic Book Artist Ernie Colón Passes On

Comic book artist Ernie Colón, whose career spanned sixty years, died on August 8 2019 at the age of 88. The cause was cancer.

Ernie Colón was born on July 13 1931 in Puerto Rico. He grew up on the mainland of the United States. He started his career in comic books as a letter at Harvey Comics. He later did uncredited work on some of the company's titles, including Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. The first work for which he was credited as an artist was on Wham-O Giant Comics #1 (April 1967), a title published by the toy company Wham-O. It was on the story "Kaleidoscope of Fear." Mr. Colón worked on both Gold Key Comics' Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom and Warren Publishing's comics magazines Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella.

In the Seventies he did work for Atlas/Seaboard on their titles Grim Ghost, Thrilling Adventure Stories, Tiger-Man, and Weird Tales of the Macabre. He also did work at Marvel on Battlestar Galactica; John Carter, Warlord of Mars; and Savage Sword of Conan. In the Eighties he worked at DC on several titles, including Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld; Arak, Son of Thunder; Atari Force; Blue Devil; The Brave and the Bold; Cosmic Boy; DC Comics Presents; House of Mystery; Legion of Super-Heroes; Omega Men; Secret Origins; The Unexpected; and The Warlord. He also continued to do work at Harvey Comics. He worked at Eclipse Comics on Airboy.

In the Nineties Ernie Colón worked at Marvel on such titles as 2099 Unlimited, Doom, and Mighty Mouse. He worked on Dreadstar at Malibu Comics. He worked at DC on Scooby-Doo. At Harvey Comics he worked on Beetlejuice, Hot Stuff, Monster in My Pocket, Richie Rich, Ultraman, and Wendy the Good Little Witch. Mr. Colón worked on Magnus, Robot Fighter and Solar, Man of the Atom.

In addition to his work in comic books, he also worked on the weekly comic strip Spycat for the Weekly World News and several non-fiction projects. 

Ernie Colón was certainly a talented artist. He was also certainly versatile. He worked on everything from comic books for young readers (such various Harvey Comics titles and Marvel's Star Comics) to titles for adults (Warren Publishing's horror titles). He worked on a wide variety of characters as well, everything from Caspar the Friendly Ghost to Conan the Barbarian to The Black Widow.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The 50th Anniversary of the Death of Sharon Tate

It is a sad fact of my life that it has been haunted by the deaths of actresses. In the summer of 1969 I was only six years old and it is from that summer that I have my first clear memories of the deaths of celebrities. The first was Judy Garland, already familiar to me as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz (1939), who died on June 22 1969 at the age of 47. The second was Sharon Tate, who was murdered fifty years ago today. At the time I was only familiar with Miss Tate as Janet Trego on reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies, and I remember no details about her death from the time, probably because my parents shielded me from it. As I grew older I would see more of Sharon Tate's work, everything from The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) to The Wrecking Crew (1969). I would also learn the details of her death, and I was horrified. Well into my teens I was disturbed by the fact that one of my childhood crushes had been brutally murdered. Sadly, for many years Sharon Tate would be best remembered as a murder victim.That well-known hair stylist Jay Sebring, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger were also murdered that night would often be overlooked. Regardless, it has always seemed a tragedy to me that Sharon Tate is better remembered for the events of August 9 1969 instead of her career.

Having died at only 26, Sharon Tate's career was a short one. That having been said, she left an impact larger than many better known stars. Both Filmways and MGM had faith that Miss Tate would be a major star, so much so that in 1967 a short promotional film, All Eyes on Sharon Tate, profiling the young actress was released to theatres. For her role in Valley of the Dolls (1967) Sharon Tate was nominated for the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. In the late Sixties Sharon Tate was an actress whose star was on the rise. There can be little doubt that she was poised for superstardom.

Sharon Tate's ascent to stardom is remarkable given she had been shy since her childhood. As a little girl she often had difficulty making friends because she was so timid. Despite this, she entered beauty pageants from when she was very young and it was on pageant stages that her shyness evaporated. She was drawn to acting and appeared as an extra in both Barabbas (1961) and Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962). She made her television debut in an episode of The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom in 1960. Having befriended Richard Beymer on the set of Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, when her family moved to Los Angeles in 1962 she sought out his agent, Harold Gefsky.

Harold Gefsky introduced Sharon Tate to Martin Ransohoff of Filmways Inc., who signed her to a seven year contract. Miss Tate was initially cast in the role of Kate Bradley's blonde daughter Billie Jo on Petticoat Junction, but Martin Ransohoff ultimately decided Sharon Tate lacked the experience and self confidence for a regular television role and cast Jeannine Riley instead. Despite this, Miss Tate would appear in a semi-regular role on one of the biggest sitcoms on television at the time.  On The Beverly Hillbillies Sharon Tate played the role of secretary Janet Trego in a brunette wig. She would also make guest appearances on another Filmways show, Mister Ed.

Sharon Tate continued to appear on The Beverly Hillbillies from 1963 to 1965. She would have a walk on in The Americanization of Emily (1964). She tried out for The Cincinnati Kid (1965), but both Martin Ransohoff and director Sam Peckinpah decided she was not ready yet. She also unsuccessfully tried out for the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music (1965).  It was in 1966 that Martin Ransohoff finally decided Sharon Tate was ready for feature films.

It was in 1966 in the British film Eye of the Devil (released in the United States in 1967) that Sharon Tate had her first significant role in a feature film. Sadly, aside from giving her experience, Eye of the Devil did little to advance Sharon Tate's career. The film made little money in the United States and largely went unnoticed. Despite this, 1967 would still prove to be Sharon Tate's year. Her next film, Don't Make Waves (1967), received mixed reviews and was not a smash hit, but it did get Miss Tate noticed. In Don't Make Waves she played a beautiful surfer named Malibu whom Tony Curtis's character, Carlo, decides to pursue. There are some who believe that Sharon Tate's character in Don't Make Waves inspired the Malibu Barbie doll, first produced in 1969.

Sharon Tate was next cast in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). Director Roman Polanski initially wanted Jill St. John for the role, but Martin Ransohoff convinced Polanski to cast Sharon Tate instead, provided she wore a red wig. While The Fearless Vampire Killers did very well in Europe (where it was released under the title Dance of the Vampires--Le bal des vampires in France, Tanz der Vampire in Germany, and so on), it fared badly in the United States. Since then it has become a cult film.

While both Don't Make Waves and The Fearless Vampire Killers would fail on their initial release in the United States, Valley of the Dolls would prove to be a worldwide hit. It was based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. While the film did not receive particularly good reviews, for her performance in the film Sharon Tate received a nomination for the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. In the film Miss Tate played Jennifer North, a beautiful actress based on both Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe. Like Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer worries that she is noticed more for her looks than for any talent she might have. That Jennifer did not appear to have much talent is what set the character apart not only from Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe, but Sharon Tate herself. Despite her considerable talent, Miss Tate was sometimes simply dismissed by critics and journalists as simply being a beautiful girl. That she projected vulnerability and sensitivity as Jennifer North in Valley of the Dolls is proof that she was much more than another pretty face.

Fortunately, it would be with Sharon Tate's next film that critics would finally take notice of her talent. The Wrecking Crew was the fourth and final Matt Helm starring Dean Martin. In the film Miss Tate plays Freya Carlson, a Danish guide from a tourism bureau assigned to Helm. Freya is a bit clumsy, but nonetheless a skilled combatant. Miss Tate shined in the role, having been coached in the martial arts by the film's "Karate Advisor" Bruce Lee. While reviews for the film would be mixed to negative, critics gave Sharon Tate overwhelmingly good notices for her performance, noting her gift for comedy.

Sadly, The Wrecking Crew would be Sharon Tate's penultimate film. Her next film, the comedy 12+1 (also known as The Thirteen Chairs), was released after her death, on October 7 1969 in Italy and on July 8 1970 in the United States. It would be the first film on which Sharon Tate received top billing. Once more she also gave a bravura performance, proving once and for all that she was a great comic actress. It would also be her final film.

Particularly with regards to stars who have a meteoric rise such as Sharon Tate had, there is a tendency to place them on a pedestal. People forget that they were flesh and blood human beings. That having been said, by all accounts Sharon Tate was a wonderful human being as well as a talented actress. As mentioned earlier, she was shy when she was young, and suffered from a lack of self-confidence even into adulthood. Even as an adult, like many beautiful women, Sharon Tate did not see herself as particularly beautiful. Sharon Tate had a sense of humour, even about herself. She jokingly referred to her role in Don't Make Waves (in which she spends most of her time in a bikini) as "sexy little me" and would later say to a reporter about the film, "It's a terrible movie." While Sharon Tate was terribly shy when she was younger, she was also warm hearted and sensitive, and was known for her kindness. She loved animals, particularly dogs. She was also very intelligent. When she was younger she actually thought about becoming a psychiatrist. Actress Sheilah Wells in an interview published in Screenland in November 1969 said of Sharon Tate, "With all her beauty, everyone loved her. I never heard anyone say a bad word about her, not even another actress. And in this town that's not only a rarity, it's an impossibility!"

If millions of little boys like myself had crushes on Sharon Tate, I have to suspect that it was not simply because she was beautiful. In her various roles Miss Tate's vulnerability, sensitivity, sense of humour, and intelligence shone through. One could believe Sharon Tate was a truly nice person and, unlike many movie stars, she actually was. The tragedy of Sharon Tate's death is not simply that she was brutally murdered, but that the career of an immensely talented actress and a truly good person was cut short. For years Sharon Tate has been best known as a murder victim. It is time that she is remembered for being Sharon Tate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Vanessa Marquez on Streaming Media

From Fire and Ice
It is August and I have not been doing well the past few days. In a few weeks it will be the first anniversary of the death of my beloved Vanessa Marquez. Nearly one year later I am much better than I was immediately following her death, but I am still grieving deeply. I am still apt to break down crying at odd moments. Certain songs will bring a flood of tears. I cannot bring myself to think about the events of August 30 2018 or the circumstances of her death.  And I am still very, very angry at both the city of South Pasadena and their police department. There are still days when I don't really feel like getting up in the morning.There have been some good things that have happened in the past few months. I was able to attend a screening of Stand and Deliver (1988) in Los Angeles and meet in person many of Vanessa's friends with whom I have been in touch. I had the honour of assisting in the scattering of Vanessa's ashes and I am now in regular touch with her mother.

Of course, while Vanessa was the woman I love, she was also a talented actress with a remarkable career. Sadly, much of her work isn't widely available. Her second feature film, Night Children (1989), is only available on VHS. The TV movie, All Lies End in Murder (1997), doesn't appear to be available anywhere. Sadly, the same is true of her guest appearance on the TV show Nurses, which I remember well from when it first aired. As hard as it is to believe given it was a hit TV show, Nurses is available on neither DVD nor streaming. Fortunately, much of the rest of her work is available on streaming. Here is a list of her film and TV appearances available on streaming media. I give the price for rental or purchase of each one. Where there is not a price it is either free or free with a subscription to the particular service (for example,a subscription to Hulu).

Stand and Deliver (1988)

This is Vanessa's film debut and features her best known role aside from Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. Believe it or not, Vanessa had almost no acting experience when she played Ana Delgado in the film. It is widely considered a classic and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2011. I consider it an Essential.

Amazon Prime Free with an Amazon subscription to Starz, otherwise it is $2.99 to rent and $12.99 to buy.
Google Play  $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
YouTube $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.

Wiseguy (TV series)

Prior to its fourth season,  Wiseguy star Ken Wahl left the show in a dispute with CBS over the series's direction. He was replaced by Steven Bauer as United States Attorney Michael Santana. For the second story arc of the fourth season, Vanessa was set to have a recurring role as Santana's niece Consuelo Burns. Unfortunately, CBS cancelled the show before the story arc could unfold. Vanessa appeared in the episodes "Changing Houses" and "Point of No Return." The latter episode did not air on CBS and would not become available until the fourth season was released on DVD in 2009. Billy Dee Williams guest starred in "Changing Houses."

Amazon Prime $1.99 to rent , $14.99 to buy the whole 4th season

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage (TV movie 1991)

This film centres on Cheryl Ladd as a woman wrongly convicted of drug trafficking. Vanessa has a significant role as one of the women she meets in prison.

Amazon Prime Free on Prime, otherwise $1.99 to rent, $7.99 to buy. It is under the title Other Side of Love.
DailyMotion Available in two parts.

Seinfeld "The Cheever Letters", Season 4  Episode 6 1992

Vanessa has a brief appearance as the receptionist of the Cuban Embassy. Vanessa once told me that this was her appearance that most consistently paid residuals. Little wonder given how often Seinfeld is still aired on television!

Amazon Prime $2.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season
Vudu $1.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season.
YouTube $1.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season.

Twenty Bucks (1993)

This is my favourite feature film in which Vanessa appeared besides Stand and Deliver. Twenty Bucks follows a $20 bill as it passes from person to person. Vanessa plays Melanie, the girlfriend of a boy who gets hold of the $20 bill and plans to use it to illegally buy wine (he's under the drinking age). Vanessa has significant screen time in Twenty Bucks and gives one of her best performances. And while I must admit to some bias where Vanessa is concerned, she is utterly adorable in the film.

Google Play $3.99 to rent, $12. 99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
YouTube $3.99 to rent.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)

If you were close to Vanessa or even one of her devoted fans, do not watch this movie. Several years ago Vanessa convinced me to watch it and I told her I would never watch it again as I did not like what happened to her character (who is named "Terry"). Given how I feel about her, she understood. Particularly now, given the circumstances of her death, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence would be difficult viewing for anyone who loves Vanessa.  It is the second sequel to Maniac Cop, a film about a homicidal, undead police officer.

Amazon Prime free with Prime membership.

Father Hood (1993)

Father Hood stars Patrick Swayze as a small time criminal who frees his children from an abusive state run home. Vanessa appears briefly as one of the kids he frees. Father Hood really can't make up its mind whether it's a family comedy or an action movie, and it really isn't very good as either one. That having been said, Vanessa does give a very good performance for the brief time she's in the movie.

Amazon Prime $3.99 to rent, $17.99 to buy.
Google Play $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy.
YouTube $2.99 to buy.

Culture Clash (TV series)

Vanessa was a regular in the first season of this show starring the famous performance troupe of the same name. Sadly,  according to Ric Salinas of Culture Clash, Fox will not allow them to release the TV series on DVD and it is not available on streaming. Fortunately, Vanessa uploaded many of her clips to her YouTube channel. If you are one of Vanessa's fans, this is a must see for you. The clips display her full range of talents, including singing (Vanessa had a beautiful voice)!


Melrose Place (TV Series) "The Doctor Who Rocks the Cradle", Season 3, Episode 12

Vanessa played Linda Cortez, one of Dr. Shaw's patients, a young married mother who is carrying a stillborn baby to term. 

Amazon Prime Free with Prime membership, $1.99 for one episode, $14.99 for a whole season
CBS All Access
Google Play 1.99 for one episode, $14.99 for one whole season
YouTube $1.99 for one episode

ER (TV Series)

Vanessa appeared in the first three seasons of ER in what is probably her most famous role, that of Nurse Wendy Goldman. From what I have observed over the years, Wendy was easily one of the most popular characters on the show. Sadly, she experienced both sexual harassment and ethnic slurs on the set and was fired when she reported it. Never mind firing her was wrong, I think it was a big mistake on the parts of the producers. Quite frankly, I think Vanessa's dismissal was the first step in what would be a rapid decline of the show. After the fourth season I didn't find ER worth watching.

Amazon Prime $1.99 to rent episodes, $2.99 to buy episodes, $9.99 to rent a season, $24.99 to buy a season.
Google Play $1.99 to rent episodes, $19.99 to buy a whole season.
Vudu $1.99 to rent episodes, $19.99 to buy a whole season.
YouTube $1.99 to rent episodes.

Malcolm & Eddie (TV series)

Vanessa guest starred in two episodes of the third season and one episode of the fourth season of the sitcom Malcom & Eddie. She played Janice Ramos, a cocktail waitress in Malcolm and Eddie's club. The size of Vanessa's role varies from episode to episode, but she is adorable in all of them. She is in the third season episodes "The Fool Monty" and "As You Strike It," and the fourth season episode "Worst Impressions."


Fire and Ice (TV movie 2001)

Sadly, this would be Vanessa's last significant appearance in narrative television or narrative film (she did have a cameo in the Star Wars fan film Return of Pink Five in 2006). Fire and Ice is a romance film based on the novel by Carla Fredd. While it aired on BET, it differs only a little from similar films that have aired on Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. That having been said, it is worth it to see Vanessa. Vanessa gets a good deal of screen time, more than some of the actors billed above her. She is also the most beautiful I have ever seen her in film or television. As usual, she gives a great performance.

YouTube (free, but divided up in parts)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Barry Coe R.I.P.

Barry Coe, who starred in the early Sixties series Follow the Sun and guest starred on TV shows from Bonanza to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died on July 16 2019 at the age of 84. The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome.

Barry Coe was born Barry Clark Heacock in Santa Monica, California on November 26 1934. His mother would later marry Joseph Spalding Coe Sr. and his name would become Joseph Spalding Coe, Jr. His biological father, Frank Heacock, was a writer and publicist for Warner Bros. He died in an automobile accident in 1940.

Barry Coe attended he University of Southern California. It was while he was on a trip to Palm Springs that he was discovered by talent scout. Afterwards he signed with 20th Century Fox. He made his film debut in House of Bamboo in 1955. In the late Fifties he appeared in the films How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), On the Threshold of Space (1956), D-Day the Sixth of June (1956), Love Me Tender (1956), Peyton Place (1957), Thundering Jets (1958), The Bravados (1958), A Private Affair (1959), But Not for Me (1959), One Foot in Hell (1960), and The Wizard of Baghdad (1960). He made his television debut in an episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour in 1955. He guest starred on Cheyenne and another episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour.

Barry Coe began the Sixties as the star of the short-lived adventure TV series Follow the Sun. Barry Coe guest starred on Bonanza as Little Joe Cartwright's older half brother (they shared their mother in common) Clay Stafford. It was planned for him to be join the cast as a regular, but objections from the cast resulted in him not joining the show. In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows General Hospital and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea., He had a recurring role on Bracken's World. He appeared in the movies The 300 Spartans (1962), A Letter to Nancy (1965), The Cat (1966), and Fantastic Voyage (1966).

In the Seventies Mr. Coe appeared in such films as The Seven Minutes (1971), One Minute Before Death (1973), Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls (1973), McArthur (1977), and Jaws 2 (1978). He guest starred on the shows Mission: Impossible, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and ABC Afternoon Specials. He appeared in the mini-series Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers. In the late Seventies and early Eighties he appeared as ""Mr. Goodwrench" in commercials for General Motors' dealers service departments known at the time as "Goodwrench."

Monday, August 5, 2019

Thank You for a Successful 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon!

I wanted to thank everyone who participated in this weekend's 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon. This year we saw entries covering films from the Forties to the Naughts. Several different genres were covered as well, from comedies to dramas. If you want to read all the posts, you can do so here.