Saturday, June 12, 2021

Ten Years Without Brian

It is one of the sad facts of my life that each of my best friends died young. My best friend in college, Ron, died in a car crash when he was only 22. And, of course, I have discussed many times here the death of my dearest Vanessa. Today it is the tenth anniversary of the death of my friend Brian Stephenson. He died on this date when the nursing home at which he was recovering administered too much insulin.

I knew Brian for well over 25 years. We met when we were in our twenties through mutual friends, all of who played role playing games. Brian and I naturally gravitated to each other. We shared many interests beyond role playing games, including classic movies, classic television, comic books, pulp magazines, and science fiction. We rarely argued and when we did so, we never remained angry at each other for long. We watched many movies together. It was with Brian that I first saw Seven Samurai (1954), La Dolce Vita (1960), The Big Sleep (1946), and many others. We almost always went to the theatre together. We had an arrangement where we rotated who paid our way in (when we were younger, at least, it was not unusual for one of us to be broke). If I haven't gone to the movie theatre much in the past ten years, it is because it doesn't feel right without Brian there. We read many of the same books and comic books. Any time one of us bought a book, he would let the other one of us read it when he was through reading it. In many ways, Brian was much more like a brother or cousin than he was simply a friend.

Brian was very talented. He wrote a screen play and also wrote several short stories. Sadly, he never tried to get anything published. He was also a math whiz, able to add and subtract, multiply and divide in his head. That came in handy, as I need a calculator simply to add and subtract! If I had some math to do and didn't have a calculator, I simply looked to Brian.

Among Brian's few flaws, it was that he was technologically challenged. That might sound surprising to some, as I tend to be fairly comfortable with technology. Anyway, either my brother or I had to install every one of Brian's VCRS. I set up every computer he ever owned, and installed the printers on those computers as well. A more important flaw on Brian's part is that he did not take particularly good care of himself. He was diabetic and it was not unusual for him to try to do without his insulin when he was low on money. Sadly, it was that flaw that eventually cost him his life. His health failed, he was put in a nursing home to recover, and then they administered too much insulin.

To this day I miss Brian terribly. Even ten years later it feels as if I should call him any time I see a movie or TV show I particularly like. I hate not being able to visit him and being able to go to the theatre with him. Aside from close family and Vanessa, I was never closer to anyone than I was Brian. I have often compared us to Charters and Caldicott, the primary difference being that we were obsessed with pop culture instead of cricket. I imagine either Charters or Caldicott would feel as lost without the other as I have without Brian.

Friday, June 11, 2021

"Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce

Today I am feeling blue, so I don't feel up to writing a full post today. I hope to do so tomorrow. For that reason, I will leave you with one of my favourite songs from all the way back to when I was a kid. I have always loved "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce, and for me the song has taken on additional meaning in the past two years and ten months. If there is someone you love, by all means tell them, "I love you," before it's too late.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Stand and Deliver Reunion Panel on Midnight's Edge YouTube Channel

Today at 10:00 AM Pacific/12:00 PM Central there was a cast reunion for the movie Stand and Deliver (1988) at the Midnight's Edge YouTube channel. The reunion was organized by Latino Slant and co-sponsored by The Daily Chela and Midnight's Edge. The reunion included Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Philips, and most of the actors who played students (Karla Montana was absent). The event helped raise money for the Latino Theatre Company in Los Angeles.

As might be expected, watching the reunion was emotional for me. Before the reunion took place they played a memorial video for my beloved Vanessa Marquez (who played Ana Delgado in the film), so I spent several minutes crying. In the superchat many also made donations in Vanessa's memory. The reunion itself was enjoyable to watch, as I expected it to be (in 2019 at the screening of Stand and Deliver at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes I had seen a panel of the cast). Sadly, Patrick Baca was having technical difficulties and as a result didn't really get to take part much in the panel. That made me a bit sad, as Patrick is a great raconteur. At one point one of Lou Diamond Philips's cats decided to "meow." I was really hoping that maybe the kitty would make an appearance on screen, but they didn't. Anyway, I know that while Vanessa wasn't there physically, she was there in spirit.

I do have to point out that Paulie of Latino Slant did mispronounce my name. For those of you who are wondering "Towles" is pronounced with a long "o" (like "tolls") and in "Canote" the "o" is long and the "e" is silent.  Here I want to say that I didn't mind Paulie mispronouncing my name, as I am used to it. I felt lucky just to have been acknowledged!

I have embedded the video here if you want to watch it. You can also watch it at the Midnight's Edge YouTube channel.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Erin O'Brien Passes On

Singer and actress Erin O'Brien, who appeared in Betty White's early TV series Hollywood on Television and movie Onionhead (1958), died on May 20 2021 at the age of 87.

Erin O'Brien was born January 17 1934 in Los Angeles. She grew up in Long Beach, California. After graduating from St. Anthony High School, she sang with a choir led by Walter Schumann. For three years she was a regular on Hollywood on Television, a daily talk show hosted by Betty White and others. As a singer she appeared on several talk shows and variety shows throughout the Fifties, including Tonight!, The Ray Anthony Show, The George Gobel Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Eddie Fisher Show, The Bob Hope Show, The Liberace Show, and Tonight Starring Jack Paar.  She was a regular performer on The Steve Allen Show.

During the Fifties she also guest starred as an actress on several shows, including Colt. 45, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, The Bob Cummings Show, The United States Steel Hour, Five Fingers, Tombstone Territory, Death Valley Days, and Bat Masterson. She made her film debut in Onionhead, starring Andy Griffith, in 1958. She also appeared in the movie Girl on the Run (1958), which served as the pilot for the TV show 77 Sunset Strip. She also appeared in the movie John Paul Jones (1959).

In the Sixties she guest starred on the shows The Aquanauts, Bat Masterson, The Asphalt Jungle, Laramie, King of Diamonds, Perry Mason, and The Danny Kaye Show. She appeared on the talk show The Mike Douglas Show and the game show Truth or Consequences. She had a bit part in the movie In Like Flint (1967) before retiring.

Erin O'Brien also had a recording career, releasing singles an album on the label Coral Records.

Erin O'Brien was a very talented singer, gifted with a dulcet voice. She was also a very good actress, playing a wide variety of roles. She played a young missionary in the first episode of Colt .45, a night club singer in Girl on the Run, and a woman whose husband had struck gold on an episode of Maverick. Although her career was short, it was memorable.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Godspeed Clarence Williams III

Clarence Williams III, who played Linc Hayes on the classic TV show The Mod Squad and Prince's troubled father in Purople Rain (1984),, died on June 4 2021 at the age of 81. The cause was colon cancer.

Clarence Williams III was born in New York City on August 21 1939. He became interested in acting while young when he accidentally walked onto a stage located in a theatre beneath a Harlem YMCA. He served in the United States Army as a paratrooper. After he left the military, he made his debut on Broadway in The Long Dream in 1960. During the Sixties he also appeared on Broadway in Slow Dance on the Killing Ground and The Great Indoors.

Clarence Williams  III made his film debut in 1959 in an uncredited role in Pork Chop Hill (1959). During the Sixties he appeared in the movies The Cool World (1963). He made his television debut in an episode of Directions in 1966. He guest starred in episodes of Daktari and Tarzan before being cast as Linc on The Mod Squad. He remained with The Mod Squad for the entirety of its run, from 1968 to 1973.

In the Seventies he guest starred on the TV shows Orson Welles' Great Mysteries and The Littlest Hobo. He reprised his role as Linc in the TV reunion movie The Return of the Mod Squad in 1979. On Broadway he appeared in Night and Day. In the Eighties, Mr. Williams appeared in the movies Purple Rain (1984), 52 Pick-Up (1986), Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), Perfect Victims (1988), I'm Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), and Maniac Cop 2 (1990). He guest starred on the TV shows Hill Street Blues, ABC Afternoon Specials, T.J. Hooker, The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, Hell Town, The Highwayman, Gabriel's Fire, and Shades of LA, Twin Peaks.

In the Nineties Clarence Williams III appeared in the movies My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1992), Deep Cover (1992), Deadfall (1993), Sugar Hill (1993), Tales from the Hood (1995), The Immortals (1995), The Silencers (1996), The Brave (1997), Sprung (1997), Hoodlum (1997), Half Baked (1998), Frogs for Snakes (1998), Starstruck (1998), La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano (1998), Life (1999), The General's Daughter (1999), Reindeer Games (1999), Civility (2000), and Ritual (2000). He guest starred on the shows Jake and the Fatman, Tales from the Crypt, New York Undercover, The Cosby Mysteries, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Millennium, Walker Texas Ranger, The Wonderful World of Disney, Profiler, Resurrection Blvd., and Law & Order.

In the Naughts he played  the regular role of Philby on the series of Mystery Woman TV movies. He guest starred on the shows Judging Amy, Miracles, Fastlane, Skin, Karen Cisco, Everybody Hates Chris, Burn Notice, Cold Case, Justified, and Memphis Beat. He appeared in the movies Mindstorm (2001), Blue Hill Avenue (2001), Imposter (2001), Happy Here and Now (2002), The Extreme Team (2003), Constellation (2005), The Blue Hour (2007), American Gangster (2007), The Way of War (2009), and A Day in the Life (2009).

In the Teens he guest starred on the TV show Empire. He appeared in the movies The Butler (2013) and Mr. Malevolent (2018).

Clarence Williams III was a wonderful actor. As Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad he was easily the coolest character on the shows. As Philby, the former secret agent turned bookstore caretaker, he was also easily the coolest character on the show. That having been said, he could play a wide array of characters, from The Kid's abusive father in Purple Rain to the black power leader Kalina in I'm Goona Get You Sucka. Indeed, while Clarence Williams III may be best known for The Mod Squad, he was a adept at comedy as he was drama. He was a very versatile actor.