Friday, May 17, 2024

Mark Damon Passes On

Mark Damon, an actor who appeared in such films as House of Usher (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963) and later became a producer, died on May 12 2024 at the age of 91.

Mark Damon was born Alan Harris on April 22 1933 in Chicago. When he was very young his family moved to California. He attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles and then UCLA. He trained in acting with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner.

He made his television debut in 1952 in an episode of Gang Busters. In the Fifties he guest starred on the shows Meet Corliss Archer, Your Play Time, I Led Three Lives, Cavalcade of America, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Matinee Theatre, The 20th Century Fox Hour, Men of Annapolis, Panic!, The Californians, The Silent Service, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Ann Sothern Show, The Lineup, Zorro, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, and National Velvet. He made his movie debut in 1956 in Inside Detroit. He appeared in the movies Screaming Eagles (1956), Between Heaven and Hell (1956), Young and Dangerous (1957), Life Begins at 17 (1958),The Party Crashers (1958), The Rebel Breed (1960), and House of Usher.

In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows Walt Disney Presents, Hawaiian Eye, and Lock Up. He appeared in the movies Peccati d'estate (1962), Beauty and the Beast (1962), The Longest Day (1962), The Young Racers (1963), Il giorno più corto (1963), Black Sabbath (1963), Sfida al re di Castiglia (1963), Wounds of Hunger (1963), I cento cavalieri (1964), Il figlio di Cleopatra (1964), Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero (1965), Dio, come ti amo! (1966), Johnny Oro (1966), Johnny Yuma (1966), Requiescant (1967), La morte non conta i dollari (1967), Colpo doppio del camaleonte d'oro (1967), Un treno per Durango (1968), Nude... si muore  (1968), Kiedy milosc byla zbrodnia (1968), Tutto per tutto (1968), Lo sbarco di Anzio (1968), ¿Quién grita venganza? (1968), and Temptation (1969).

In the Seventies Mark Damon appeared in the movies L'arciere di fuoco (1971), La spada normanna (1971), Questa libertà di avere... le ali bagnate (1971), Posate le pistole, reverendo (1971), I leoni di Pietroburgo (1972), Monta in sella!! Figlio di... (1972), Byleth (Il demone dell'incesto) (1972), Lo chiamavano Verità (1972), Confessioni segrete di un convento di clausura (1972), Little Mother (1973), Il plenilunio delle vergini (1973), La tumba de la isla maldita (1973), Es knallt - und die Engel singen (1974), and There is No 13 (1974). He guest starred on the TV show The Protectors..

In 1983 he appeared in the movie Stuck on You!. He appeared in the movies Deceiver (1997). In 1991 he guest starred on the TV show Gabriel's Fire.

Mark Damon's first production credit was executive producer on Wounds of Hunger in 1963. In the Seventies he produced The Arena (1974) and The Choirboys (1977). In the Eighties he was a producer on Das Boot (1981), The Neverending Story (1984), The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986), 8 Million Ways to Die (1986), Short Circuit (1986), Flight of the Navigator (1986), The Lost Boys (1987), Bat*21 (1988), Mac and Me (1988), High Spirits (1988), Wild Orchid (1989), Dark Angel (1990), and Vietnam, Texas (1990).

In the Nineties he produced the movies Beastmaster 2: Through the Time Portal (1991), Inner Sanctum (1991), Diary of a Hitman (1991), Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue (1991), Stalingrad (1993), The Jungle Book (1994), The Winner (1996), Loved (1997), The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997), The Blackout (1997), Deceiver (1997), Orgazmo (1997), A Dog of Flanders (1998), Grizzly Falls (1999), Eye of the Beholder (1999), and Love & Sex (2000). He was an executive producer on the TV movie Red Shoe Diaries.

In the Naughts he produced The Body (2001), The Musketeer (2001), (2002), Extreme Ops (2002), The United States of Leland (2003), 11:14 (2003), Monster (2003), The I Inside (2004), Beyond the Sea (2004), The Upside of Anger (2005), O Jersualem (2006), Captivity (2007), It's Alive (2009), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009), and Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009).

In the Teens and Twenties he produced The Ledge (2011), Flypaper (2011), Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012), 2 Guns (2013), Lone Survivor (2013), And So It Goes (2014), Blind (2016), The Hurricane Heist (2018), The Last Full Measure (2019), Willy's Wonderland (2021), Best Sellers (2021), 9 Bullets (2022), Fast Charlie (2023), and Rumble Through the Dark (2023).

Mark Damon was a remarkable actor. He did a memorable turn in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents  episode "Place of Shadows," on which he played a young man who insinuates his way into an monastery to kill a man who cheated him and ruined his life, a man being cared by the monastery. He was also memorable as a juvenile delinquent in the movie Young and Dangerous (1957). His most memorable role may well have been that of Philip Winthrop in House of Usher. In House of Usher Philip Winthrop is engaged to Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). Unfortunately, her brother Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) is none too happy with the two getting married. Mark Damon had considerable talent.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Turtles Drummer John Barbata Passes On

John Barbata, who played drums for The Turtles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Jefferson Airplane, died on May 8 2024 at the age of 79.

John Barbata was born on Easter Day, April 1 1945, in Passaic, New Jersey. Growing up he lived in Sarnac Lake, New York and Nutley, New Jersey. He became interested in drumming after watching his older brother play drums in his school's marching band. His family moved to California when he was 16 years old. As a teenager he formed a band called The Ambassadors. He played drums with The Ambassadors for several months before being approached by surf rock band The Sentinels about becoming their drummer. He played drums on The Sentinels' singles, as well as their albums Big Surf, Surfer Girl, and Vegas Go Go.

In the spring of 1966 The Turtles were looking for a replacement for their drummer Don Murray. Gene Clark of The Byrds recommended John Barbata to them. He played drums on The Turtles' no. 1 hit "Happy Together" and remained with the band until they disbanded in 1970. That same year he replaced Crosby Stills Nash & Young's drummer Dallas Taylor. He went onto play drums on eight of CSN&Y's albums, as well as play drums on solo albums for Graham Nash, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills.

In 1972, while Crosby Still Nash & Young were on hiatus, he joined Jefferson Airplane to record their final studio album of the Seventies, Long John Silver, and the live album Thirty Seconds Over Winterland. He remained with the band when they reformed as Jefferson Starship. He remained with Jefferson Starship until injuries from a car crash in October 1978 forced him to leave the band. Prior to the accident he had also recorded with Doctor John, The Everly Brothers, Joni Mitchell, Leon Russell, Linda Ronstadt, and yet others.

Following his accident, John Barbata left the music industry. He published a memoir, The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer in 2005. He spent his final years in southern Oklahoma.

John Barbara was one of the most remarkable drummers of the Sixties and Seventies, and it seems likely his percussion was responsible for much of The Turtles' success. His style was utterly unique, with Mr. Barbata taking elements from other types of music. It is little wonder that he was very much demand (he reportedly turned down an offer to drum for Elvis Presley). It is also little wonder that he would have a lasting influence on other drummers. John Barbarta was a major talent, and that talent was in part responsible for the success of the bands with whom he played.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Godspeed Rudy Moreno, the Godfather of Latino Comedy

Rudy Moreno, the comedian and actor known as "the Godfather of Latino Comedy," died on May 11 2024 at the age of 66. The cause was complications from a stroke and sepsis.

Rudy Moreno was born on July 24 1957 in Lincoln Heights in Los Angeles. He entered show business when he was only 13 when he formed his first garage band. After graduating from high school he became a disc jockey and radio and also worked as a disc jockey at various Southern California nightclubs. He had worked for years as a DJ when Rudy Salas of the rock band Tierra asked him if he had ever considered doing stand-up comedy. Rudy Moreno then began opening for Tierra at their performances. His act proved to be so successful that he would go onto open for other artists, including Natalie Cole, Lynyrd Skynrd, Los Lobos, Smokey Robinson, The Tempations, and others.

During his career Rudy Moreno played at clubs throughout the United States. He had what may be the longest running show in Los Angeles County, playing for years at the Ice House Comedy  Club in Pasadena. He also opened the door for many young comics. Among them was Ken Jeong, perhaps best known as Ben Chang on the sitcom Community. He noted in his tweet paying tribute to Rudy Moreno that Mr. Moreno was the fist person to book him at the Ice House.

Rudy Moreno was a year into his career when television producer Jeff Valdez booked him for the TV show Comedy Compadres, which featured Latino comedians. It would be the first of many television appearances for Rudy Moreno. He appeared on such stand-up comedy shows as Comics Unleashed, Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival, Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution, and StaannDUP!. He went on to make guest appearances on the TV shows Cybill, Pacific Blue, L.A. Doctors, Everybody Loves Raymond, ER, Luis, Judging Amy, The Shield, George Lopez, Monk, Criminal Minds, Arrested Development, American Vandal, Mom, and Dave. He appeared in the TV mini-series Kingpin. He also appeared in the movie Father Stu (2022).

Rudy Moreno and his family founded Komics for Kids, an event that assists inner city children. He also raised funds for a number of other charities. Mr. Moreno was also a talented guitarist.

Rudy Moreno was a brilliant comedian. When it came to Latino humour he was definitely a master, although his jokes were such that people of any ethnicity could appreciate them. He could certainly command an audience like no one else. He always came to the stage with wit and charm.

Beyond being a very talented comedian, Rudy Moreno was simply a very nice man. He promoted the careers of countless young comics and other artists. My dearest Vanessa Marquez knew Rudy Moreno and described him as "the sweetest man." In 2010 he even arranged a meeting for Vanessa with his agent to see if they would represent her. Throughout his life Rudy Moreno helped so many. He wasn't just a great comic. He was a true gentleman.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The Late Great Roger Corman

Roger Corman has been called "the King of the B's" and "the King of Schlock." By any nickname, he was a pioneer of independent cinema. And while many of the films he made were considered embarrassingly bad by critics, he also made a number of films considered classics, including The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), X-The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Trip (1967). Roger Corman died May 9 2024 at the age of 98.

Roger Corman was born on April 5 1926 in Detroit. It was in 1940 that his family moved to Beverly Hills. He attended Beverly Hills High School and afterwards studied industrial engineering at Stanford University. During World War II he served in the United States Navy. It was after he was discharged that he decided he was not interested in engineering. Having become fascinated by movies after his family had moved to California, he got a job as a messenger at 20th Century Fox and eventually became a story analyst. After he failed to receive credit for his work on The Gunfighter (1950), he left 20th Century Fox. He then went to England where he did graduate work in English Literature. He spent some time in Paris afterwards.

Once he returned to the United States he worked for a time as a literary agent and script reader. Noticing the low quality of many of the scripts he read, Roger Corman decided he could do better. He wrote the script House in the Sea and sold it to Allied Artists for $4000. It was retitled Highway Dragnet and released in 1954 and starred Joan Bennett and Richard Conte. He used the money from that script sale to finance his first film, Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), directed by Wyott Ordung. He followed Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954) with the crime drama The Fast and the Furious (1954). The Fast and the Furious (1954) was distributed by a new company, American Releasing Corporation (ARC), founded by entertainment lawyer Samuel Z. Arkoff and sales manager James H. Nicholson. ARC would eventually be renamed American International Pictures (AIP), and Roger Corman would have a long relationship with the company.

Roger Corman's next film distributed by ARC would also mark his directorial debut, the Western Five Guns West (1955). In the late Fifties Roger Corman would direct the movies Apache Woman (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), Swamp Women (1955), The Oklahoma Woman (1955), Gunslinger (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Naked Paradise (1957), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), Rock All Night (1957), Teenage Doll (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), Sorority Girl (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), Teenage Caveman (1958), She Gods of Shark Reef (1958), I Mobster (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), A Bucket of Blood (1959), Ski Troop Attack (1960), House of Usher (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), and Last Woman on Earth (1960). Although Roger Corman's name is closely associated with American International Pictures, some of his well-known movies were released by Allied Artists, including Not of This Earth, and Attack of the Crab Monsters. He made movies for yet other companies.

In the Sixties Roger Corman directed Atlas (1961), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), The Intruder (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Raven (1963), The Young Racers (1963), The Terror (1963), X-The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Secret Invasion (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). It was in August 1965 that Roger Corman signed with United Artists to make two films over three years. It was also in the mid-Sixties that he signed a contract with Columbia. Ultimately, he made no projects for either studio and returned to making independent movies. He finished the Sixties directing The Wild Angels (1967), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), The Trip (1967), Target: Harry (1969), Bloody Mama (1970), and Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970).

It was on July 8 1970 that Roger Corman founded New World Pictures with his brother Gene. In the Seventies Mr. Corman concentrated on producing movies, although he would still direct a few. A He directed Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) and did uncredited directing on  Deathsport (1978), and  Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). After the Seventies he would direct only one more movie, Frankenstein Unbound (1990).

Roger Corman was prolific as a producer of movies, producing many, many movies in addition to those he directed himself. On IMDB his credits as a producer number 493. In the Fifties he produced such films as Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), The Fast and the Furious (1954), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), The Brain Eaters (1958), Hot Car Girl (1958), The Cry Baby Killer (1958), and Beast from Haunted Cave (1959). In the Sixties he produced such films as Dementia 13 (1964), Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), Queen of Blood (1966), Blood Bath (1966), The Shooting (1966), Devil's Angels (1967), Targets (1968), and The Dunwich Horror (1970).

In the Seventies he produced such movies as Boxcar Bertha (1972), Sweet Kill (1973), Caged Heat (1974), Cockfighter (1974), The Arena (1974), Death Race 2000 (1975), Eat My Dust! (1976), Fighting Mad (1976), Grand Theft Auto (1977), I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), Piranha (1978), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Galaxy of Terror (1980), and Smokey Bites the Dust (1980).  In the Eighties he produced Forbidden World (1982), Space Raiders (1983), Suburbia (1984), Amazons (1986), Sweet Revenge (1987), Slumber Party Massacre II (1987), Munchies (1987), Andy Colby's Incredible Adventure (1988), Masque of the Red Death (1989), The Terror Within (1989), Naked Obsession (1990), and Slumber Party Massacre III (1990).

In the Nineties Roger Corman produced such movies as The Unborn (1991), Killer Instinct (1992), Munchie (1992), Carnosaur (1993), Dracula Rising (1993), The Skateboard Kid (1993), The Unborn 2 (1994), Angel of Destruction (1994), Hellfire (1994), The Fantastic Four (1994), Carnosaur 2 (1995), Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (1996), and The Shepherd (1999). In the Naughts he produced such films as Raptor (2001), Escape from Afghanistan (2002), Dinoroc (2004), The Hunt for Eagle One (2006), The Hunt for Eagle One: Crash Point (2006), and Supergator (2007). He was also executive producer on the TV series Black Scorpion. In the Teens he produced Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012), Roger Corman's Operation Rogue (2014), Fist of the Dragon (2015), and Death Race 2050 (2017).

In addition to directing and producing, Roger Corman also acted in films, usually in bit parts or cameos. In the Fifties he appeared in the movies Monster from the Ocean Floor, The Fast and the Furious, Day the World Ended, Naked Paradise, War of the Satellites, The Cry Baby Killer, Hot Car Girl, The Wasp Woman, Ski Troop Attack, and Battle of Blood Island (1960). In the Sixties he appeared in the movies Atlas (1961), Blood Bath (1966), and Target: Harry (1969). In the Seventies he appeared in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Cannnoball! (1976). In the Eighties he appeared in The Howling (1981), Der Stand der Dinge (1982), Swing Shift (1984), Lords of the Deep (1989), and Hollywood Boulevard II (1990). In the Nineties he appeared in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993), Apollo 13 (1995), Scream 3 (2000), and The Independent (2000). He appeared in the TV movies Body Bags (1993)  and The Second Civil War (1997), and guest starred on the shows Rebel Highway, Beverly Hills 90120, The Practice, and The Phantom Eye. In the Naughts he appeared on the movies Loony Tunes: Back in Action (2003), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Searchers 2.0 (2007), and Rachel Getting Married (2008). He appeared in the TV movies Dinoshark (2010) and Sharktopus (2010). In 2012 he appeared in Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader. He was the voice or Prospero in the segment "The Masque of the Red Death" in the animated movie Extraordinary Tales (2013).

It may well be impossible to completely access Roger Corman's impact on cinema.  While he considered motion pictures to be "..the only truly modern art form," at the same time he recognized that it was a business. He made movies on extremely tight budgets and very brief shooting schedules. That many of his movies are now considered classics is perhaps a testament to his talent as a director. Little Shop of Horrors, the movies in the Corman/Poe Cycle (particularly House of Usher and The Masque of the Red Death), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and others are highly regarded in some quarters. Even when Roger Corman directed the occasional misfire (of which there are quite a few), the movies made money. Much of this was due to the fact that he had a knack for noticing the latest trends. When there was a moral panic over juvenile delinquency in the Fifties, he made movies like The Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl. When Hammer Film Productions revived the Gothic horror genre, he made the Edgar Allan Poe movies. In the Sixties he made biker movies.

Roger Corman was also known for giving young talent their start in movies. The number of directors who began their careers with Mr. Corman is not a short one. It includes Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, and yet others. They were all graduates of "the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking," which involved making due with shoestring budgets and limited resources. Roger Corman fostered many young actors as well, most notably Jack Nicholson, but also Peter Fonda, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Dennis Hopper, David Carradine, and yet others.

For all his fame as a director and producer, from all reports Roger Corman was also a total gentleman. Many who knew him noted both his kindness and generosity. Those who worked with him have been effusive in their praise for him. Those who met him have also had praise for him. Regardless of what anyone might think of him as a filmmaker, he appears to have been a genuinely good human being.

One should make no mistake about it. Roger Corman made his share of bad movies. He was known as the King of Schlock with good reason. Regardless, his movies were always profitable and more often than not entertaining. What is more, than were many gems to be found alongside the dross. True, he directed Teenage Caveman and Bloody Mama, but he also directed The Intruder and The Pit and the Pendulum. Roger Corman's goal was to entertain audiences, and in doing so he revolutionized the film industry and created a few classics along the way.