Category Archives: Obituaries

So Long Old Chum: Adam West 1928 -2017

I realize it’s been a little while now, but I had to do a little tribute to  actor Adam West, who as you know passed away on June 9th.  Adam’s Batman was to all his fans what Spock was to Trekkers; a beloved character, an inspiration, and an overall a hero.  I loved Adam West’s voice, and how he made Batman a lovable hero, (if a bit goofy).   Of course the 1966 TV show was pure parody, but  it was a tonic the country needed from seeing the horror of Vietnam on the nightly news.

As Batman  came out the same year as Star Trek, my initial memories of it as a 5-year old were a bit sketchy. I recall watching it with my family at the “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!” every week.  In fact, Batman was so popular, it aired twice a week at one point!  I remember I loved the animated opening, because any  child could not resist a cartoon!  I recall having a crush on Burt Ward (a.k.a. Robin) because he was the cool teenager, and being a bit creeped out by The Joker.   It was funny when the dynamic duo would climb up the buildings, and we all wondered why The Joker had a mustache under his makeup! (Cesar Romero refused to shave his trademark lip fuzz).  We all thought it was pretty silly and never took it as seriously as Trek but it sure was fun escapism.

As I grew older and saw it in reruns, I remember finding it a bit embarrassing to watch (Bat-Tusi anyone?) but I did begin to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of the whole thing, and West really knew how to play it up!  I only wish Batman could have married Catwoman!  It appears that West agreed with me, when asked what Batman story he’d write:

“My Bruce Wayne would have been romancing Catwoman with a brandy snifter full of milk. Then he would have said something silly, like “Man cannot live on milk alone.”

After Batman, West had trouble getting roles because of the typecasting Batman gave him, but he remained optimistic:

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those fans. They are not stupid. I think they appreciate my sincerity and my work. Actors want to be loved. Batman (1966) has done that for me. I have an audience out there which is always waiting to see whatever I do. And new generations are constantly discovering me in reruns. So, as long as I stay sharp, good things can still happen for me. Meanwhile, I keep hoping that a wonderful opportunity will come along. Believe me, my life ain’t so bad, after all.”

And eventually, he found many a role after Batman, and had rarely been out of work right up to his passing last month.  He also remained remarkably young-looking, even as he struggled with leukemia at the end.

Before Batman, West even had a Star Trek connection!  He and Bill Shatner appeared in the short-lived series-turned TV Movie Alexander the Great with Shatner in the lead and West as Cleander. Here’s the whole movie!

On June  16th the city of Los Angeles beamed the Bat Signal onto city hall.  I can’t imagine a better tribute to this beloved actor. ❤ Rest in Peace.

 

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That’s the Batman I grew up with! Adam in his iconic role.

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Striking photo of Bruce Wayne (Adam) shedding his cowl. (*Sigh!*) So Handsome!

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Personally I always wanted Batman to run off with Catwoman! (with Julie Newmar)

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Classic, Campy 1966 LIFE Magazine cover

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So Batman, Batgirl, and Mr. Spock walk into a bar…Adam, Yvonne Craig, and Leonard Nimoy at a Hollywood Event. Missed but never forgotten

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Bat-Bang and Spock-Rock! Adam and Leonard beat the drum-skins at the same party from above. Oh to be a fly on the wall there!

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Fueling those rumors… Not sure if this is Photoshopped or not- Funny pic of Adam as Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson.

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Handsome Adam Post-Batman. He lived out the Batman typecasting to his advantage and became an icon to millions.

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Parodying himself as “Catman” on The Fairly Odd Parents.

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As himself on The Fairly Odd Parents

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As himself again on The Simpsons

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The Bat Signal Tribute in Los Angeles on June 16th

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Adam had many roles though his 50 years plus acting career. He even voiced Mayor Adam West on ‘Family Guy’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard’s Little Dog is with him now.

Sad to report that Max, Mr. Nimoy’s beloved dog has passed, nearly two years to the day that his master passed. Max was 14 years old, and a joy to all who loved him.   Here’s to rejoicing their reunion in eternity ❤b7mpqlbceaebewtleonard_nimoy_dog3

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So Shines a Good Man in a Weary World — Gene Wilder-1933-2016

169139004Another sad page added  to the list of farewells  to pieces of my youth that gave me joy.

I loved this guy.  The most wondrous, funny, brilliant Gene Wilder has passed away.   It was a even sadder and shocking to see that his passing was from Alzheimer’s disease.  But when I read the statement from Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman  in regards to why Gene kept his diagnosis a secret, it  made perfect sense. The statement read:

“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

How beautiful is that? Gene’s heart was bigger than Alzheimer’s.  It didn’t deprave him of his family recognition, and he wouldn’t let deprive his admirers of their joy.

And what joy he brought! Willy Wonka, Dr. Fredrick Fronk-en-Steen, and The Waco Kid. One moment he was a screaming neurotic, the next a gentle loving soul.  Whether he was the drunken gunslinger or a magical candy man, you believed every moment, even it his character was untrustworthy.

There’s a famous scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Wonka makes his first entrance.  Gene would only do the movie if he could act this scene a certain way:  Wonka limps down to the gate with his cane, which gets stuck in the cobblestones just before the entrance.  Wonka starts to fall forward but it evolves into a perfect forward somersault, from which he springs up triumphant.   This was important for the character, for as Wilder noted “You’d never know if he’s lying or telling the truth.”

Gene understood his characters and always let their humanity shine through.  Again in Wonka, when he first has to chastise Charlie to see if Charlie will return his Everlasting Gobstopper, he is a frightening, livid firestorm. When Charlie gives back the candy, his joy cannot be contained.  Both of these traits are the real Wilder, who took his stage name from playwright Thornton Wilder (Born Jerome Silberman) but he was much more the gentle soul in real life than the volcano he’d portray.  Growing up with a mother who ailed from a heart condition, Wilder make her laugh to ease her worries.  He considered this his greatest gift, although he didn’t think of himself as funny.  “I make my wife laugh” he said,  and that was good enough.

I cannot add much to love and accolades I’ve seen everywhere, but I’m just glad we were fortunate enough to enjoy his talents in our lifetime. To paraphrase his line in Wonka:  “So shines a good Man in a weary world.”  He’ll be greatly missed and forever loved. Good Night Herr Doctor. ❤

Gene with Teri Garr and Marty Feldman in 'Young Frankenstein'

Gene with Teri Garr and Marty Feldman in ‘Young Frankenstein’

Gene with Leonard Nimoy – Nimoy directed Gene in ‘Funny About Love’. They were good friends.

Gene with beloved  wife, comedian Gilda Radner. She passed from ovarian cancer in 1989

Happiness with wife Karen Boyer in 2007 – together 25 years until the end.

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Gene in later years.

 

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With Cleavon Little in ‘Blazing Saddles’

Gene with Peter Ostrum (Charlie) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Anton Yelchin 1989-2016

AntonIt is with great sadness and  heartbreak that I have to report this latest passing.  Anton Yelchin, the talented young actor who played Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek movies, died as a result of a freak accident at his home on Sunday, June 19th.  He was only 27.

Mr. Yelchin was rolled over by his own car and pinned between it, a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence.  This is so tragic and must be devastating for his his parents, as he was their only child.  We were just getting to know this fine young actor who gave such bubbly energy to the Chekov character. (He was one of my favorite characters in the reboot).  I know he was just beginning his path to assured stardom in his acting career.  Gone too soon, and so terribly tragic.   My heart and prayers to out to his family, friends, fellow actors and all of his admirers.

Seeing him in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie will be bittersweet, but I’m thankful we had him there.  For a relatively young actor, he has a long career in movies and television and had made several other critically acclaimed movies, including Charlie Bartlett, (2008) Like Crazy (2011),  The Beaver (2011) , and Green Room (2015)

Rest in Peace dear Anton. You will be missed.

 

Doves are Crying: Prince – 1958-2016

prince-purple-rain-ws-710Sigh.   Between David Bowie and now Prince, it’s turning into a rotten year for lovers of incredible pop music. So sorry to hear of the sudden passing of pop legend Prince today.   I had heard he was sick recently and was treated and released from a hospital, so hearing that he had passed was a sad shock.

I remember being mildly intrigued by Prince when he first appeared on the scene in the 80’s.   He was a bit odd, and had a defiant but flirtatious sensuality in his music. I wasn’t much into the casual and sometimes dirty sex references in his songs, but his psychedelic/blues/rock style of playing and his metallic Beau Brummel style and James Brown moves were so alluring.  In time he drew me in more and more. And the guitar shredding!!  Jimi Hendrix was surely smiling down from heaven when Prince first tore the opening chords of When Doves Cry? And who could resist a fine young, slightly androgynous man seductively crawling out of a bathtub to invite you in?

Prince was a prolific writer; not only songs for himself, but for many others. Remember “Love, Thy Will Be Done” by Martika, or Stand Back by Stevie Nicks? Just a small sample.   A  brilliant musician, Prince could play 27 instruments,  and in his genius he knew precisely which ones to use and combine to make a perfect melody.  But in the cloud of his techno-funk, one forgets that all he needed was a guitar.  You’ll love this simple unplugged acoustic set he did for MTV; I love how he plays off the audience.

Prince was a private person, not out of arrogance or pride, but just because he felt (and rightly so) it was his music that mattered.  When  asked if it was okay for him to sing in the pouring rain at Super Bowl LXI, he  said “Can you make it rain more?”    This is an astonishing performance, and couldn’t have been better if the rain has been specially ordered.

You might have noticed there that Prince riffed some Jimi Hendrix there, for he was an apostle of all types of music; funk, r& b, soul, rock, reggae, pop, jazz, everything.  When he played, he was the instrument.  And here, he made a surprising and blistering solo for While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ( It starts at  3:33)  Look at Dhani grin!

He is gone way too soon.  His catalog of music is unfinished; there are purported over 100 unfinished songs).  In the next few days you’ll hear many of his songs from nearly 4 decades of musical genius.  It may make you sad now to know that there will be no more.  But there’s no better way to honor his memory than to crank up the following and dance, dance, dance!

Good Night Sweet Prince. ❤   I hope you’re jamming with Jimi.

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David Bowie -Farewell Major Tom (And So Much More)

David-BowieShocked. Another hero ascends to heaven.  David Bowie.  Major Tom has escaped the bonds of Earth.

I first became aware of David Bowie in the early 70’s when, as a young teen I was just getting acquainted with music outside the realm of The Beatles and The Monkees.  Bowie was surely an oddity, and I didn’t know what to make of him.  He was a man, but why did he wear make up? Did he want to be a woman?

When I reached high school, I began to appreciate how unique he was as a performer and artist.  When he sang, he had a quavering, aching voice that could sink to a husky bass or rise to a silky high tenor.  Those eyes. One was bright blue, one was greenish brown and permanently dilated, adding to his other-worldliness.  He was strange, but mesmerizing, massively cool and undeniably sexy.

My passing interest in him was solidified in 1977, when he appeared, on all things, a Bing Crosby Christmas Special.  He and Bing duet-ed on ‘Little Drummer Boy/ Peace On Earth.  Nice to know this hipster was appealing to old guys like Bing too.  https://youtu.be/wjNToRlUen8

Later on the show, when he performed ‘Heroes’, I was hooked.

I didn’t get to buy any of his albums until the early 80’s, and I got an 8-Track of Young Americans.  On the cover he stares out from a smoky haze, with his best Marlene Deitrich gaze, inviting you in.   It was one of the first albums I bought cold, not knowing if I’d like it, but I knew he had collaborated with John Lennon on “Fame” and he made John’s Across the Universe uniquely his own.  Well, I wore that tape out, especially listening to the funky nirvana of Fame, imagining him walking away singing “Fame…” then snapping back toward you  demanding “What’s your name, what’s your name, what’s your name?” and walking away again, as a friend told me he did in concert.  So damn cool. I loved Modern Love and China Girl.  Later I took the invitation when he sang  Let’s Dance.

But aside from his glamour and flash, you could always hear his soul.

At the 9/11 concert, he opened the show.  No glitz or glamour. Just sitting cross legged on the stage with nothing but a tiny keyboard, he began playing a carousel waltz, and sang Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” It’s a beautiful moment of raw love for the city he made his own.

And on top of commanding a concert stage, he was an actor too!  His television performance as The Elephant Man was so poignant.  Wonderful, wonderful actor, and again, his soul was laid bare.

As he identified with the alienated, the misfits of the world like me felt a kinship with him. He was known for his ever changing appearance, a true chameleon who channeled everything from Ziggy Stardust to Kabuki.  Some may have thought this was to hide who he really was, but really it just proved that he was so comfortable in his own skin, that he was willing to explore any possibility.  He was truly every-man (or woman if he preferred).  If more people explored their inner selves as Bowie did, it would probably be a happier world.

That being said, he was naturally private.  Which is why the news of his cancer and death came as such a shock.   But he never quit working, creating, and just being David Bowie, achieving his final dream of a Jazz fusion album just before he passed.  If we can all strive to complete our creative pursuits as he did, it will be a life well spent.

Enjoy the music and immense talent of Mr. Bowie. There will never be another.   Rest in Peace Major Tom.

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No Dance Tonight — Bruce Hyde 1941-2015

So sad to report that another Star Trek original has passed.  The wonderful Bruce Hyde, who will forever be the excitable Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley to Trek fans, passed away from throat cancer on October 13th.  He was 74.   😦

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The character of Riley was featured in two of the the best original series episodes:  The Naked Time and The Conscience of the King.  Although he took a dramatic turn as the would-be assassin of the evil Kodos in  Conscience… Hyde brought the character a likability beyond adorable.  His navigator might have been bored in engineering, but no doubt was loyal and a favorite among the crew.  One would love to be pals with the proud Irishman– especially if he could swing you some ice cream in a bowling alley!      😉   The little touches Hyde added to the drunken Riley  — posing like a cowboy in the elevator, silently commanding a door to open as he left sickbay– were brilliant. I wish Riley could have been featured in more episodes, but two was probably enough for Hyde, who was surprised and delighted that his fame in this little role was still recognized nearly 50 years later.thenakedtimehd0495

I remember seeing Hyde at the BiCentennial-10 Star Trek Convention in NYC in 1976 — I was late to his appearance and just got there in time to see him sing Riley’s drunken ode I’ll take you home again, Kathleen to the crowd –they ate it up!thenakedtimehd0801

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Bruce as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman on Broadway in 2006.

But I hope Trek fans will also recall that Hyde was more than an actor, but also an author and  beloved professor emeritus of communication studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, as well as an acting coach.   He also appeared  on Dr. Kildare and That Girl, as well as in Death of a Salesman on Broadway.  You can read more about brilliant Bruce here.

Another wonderful Trek soul is beamed up, he’ll be missed but never forgotten.  Thanks for the laughs Mr. Riley, there will be a dance for you tonight in the bowling alley of heaven!  And as for Kathleen? I have to say “One…More…TIME!”

“No dance tonight!” I’d dance with you, Riley. ❤