From an announcement about the death of Jane Russell:
Russell’s provocative performance in ‘The Outlaw’ — and the studio publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II. Troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor. …
A piece of California history has died—someone who so embodied health that you thought he would live forever. I’m speaking of Jack LaLanne, dead at the age of 96. I remember Jack’s fitness shows, which I seem to recall were on Channel 9. From simple basic calesthenics and good eating, Jack taught that anyone could become and stay fit. If you go to a health club today and use exercise machines, you have Jack to thank. If you watch an exercise video, again, you have Jack to thank. If you like to drink whole fruit juices, that’s Jack again. He was a pioneer in the fitness field, and continued to do feats of strength until just before his death.
Jack, I’ll exercise tomorrow in your memory.
You may have noticed I’ve been obsessed of late with the death of Debbie Friedman, and I’m sure many of you don’t understand why. One remembrance by Rabbi Paul Kipnes put it in a way many will understand: she was the John Lennon of modern Jewish music—someone who changed the face of the genre significantly with her music. Do read her obituary (linked above); there’s a great tribute video here.
But Debbie’s death wasn’t the only one. Here are two more of interest:
- Margaret Whiting. The daughter of the famous songwriter Richard Whiting, Margaret Whiting was a popular singer starting in the big band era. Here’s a tribute video. Here’s my favorite part of her obit:
The singer was much-married. She wed producer Hubbel Robinson Jr. in 1948; pianist Lou Busch in 1951; John Richard Moore, a founder of Panavision, in 1958. Her most sensational marriage, however, came late in life when she met and married the much-younger, gay porn stay Jack Wrangler in 1994. The union proved her longest. Wrangler reportedly protested, “But I’m gay!,” to which Whiting reportedly replied, “Only around the edges, dear.” He went on to produce and direct many of her cabaret shows. They stayed together until his death in 2009.
- David Nelson. Yup, that David Nelson, of Ozzie and Harriet fame (you yunguns out there will have no idea what I’m talking about). Those of us who grew up with Ozzie and Harriet will remember David and Ricky Nelson. David was the last survivor of that TV family. Here’s a link to a segment of Ozzie and Harriet with David and Ricky.
Blake Edwards has died. This post, and in particular, this icon, is in memory, appreciation, and gratitude to one of the best comedy directors around.
Push the button, Max.
A late lunch break today—I’ve been busy getting ready for ACSAC next week. But I’ve accumulated a few news items:
- From the “Theatrical Departures” Department: The OC Register is reporting that the Fullerton Civic Light Opera will close in January. This is a loss for the entire Southern California Theatre community: The Fullerton CLO put on great regional shows, and continued the Civic Light Opera (an older code-phrase for “Musical Theatre”) tradtion started by organizations such as the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, now reduced to the travesty that is Broadway LA. This just leaves the South Bay CLO and the Downey CLO to carry on the tradition. Some may not care about this—after all, these are just theatre jobs—but who is to say that a job at the mall or a job in manufacturing is more or less important. This means the loss of numerous jobs that provided paychecks to families, both directly for Fullerton and for their technical and performing artists. We’ve seen other scares: the Pasadena Playhouse is slowly recovering, and the Rubicon in Ventura has been dealing with foreclosure threats to its playhouse. So what killed FCLO? The recession: specifically, a drop in subscription revenue by 20%, combined with a loss of rental income as high schools cut back their arts programs (these programs often rented sets and props from FCLO). These are things that could hit any theatre, making things especially scare. What can you do? Go see a show at your local live theatre.
- From the “Market Departures” Department: Another sad closing to announce: HOWS markets are closing all locations except Pasadena. Again, we have a victim of the recession. HOWS was the successor to Hughes. After Hughes was sold to Ralphs, some of the Hughes family members started the HOWS chain. It was doing good for a while, with locations in Granada Hills, Pasadena, and Trancas Canyon… but in the last year, saw major problems. I do agree with the conclusion of the article: the store failed because it lost its personality. Those who went their originally went because of the Hughes personality. After that died way, it just couldn’t compete with the market majors (Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons), the upscale chains (Gelsons, Whole Foods), or the quirky chains (TJs or Fresh & Easy)… and it certainly couldn’t compete with the non-Union chains.
- From the “Skank Departures” Department: Our last departure is a good one: The NY Times is reporting that the Times Square redevelopment is complete. Back in the 1970s, Times Square was a cesspool of pronshops and sleeze… and these days rent is up to $1,400/ft2. The number of tourists is up 74% since 1993, to an estimated 36.5 million last year, and attendance at Broadway shows has soared to nearly 12 million. The story of its revitalization is an interesting one… and one that owes quite a bit to the Disney Company and the New Amsterdam Theatre.
I just realized that a Bock-Harnick Quadfecta has been completed, so Sheldon Harnick can feel safe. First, on October 20th, we lost Tom Bosley, star of the first Bock/Harnick hit, Fiorello!. Next, on October 27th, came Joseph Stein, the book writer for perhaps their best known hit, Fiddler on the Roof. Then, earlier this week on November 3rd came the news of the death of Jerry Bock, the composer of these shows, as well as She Loves Me, Tenderloin, The Apple Tree, 1040, and the first musical I ever saw, The Rothschilds. Lastly, this morning’s news brings word of the death of Jill Clayburgh, who most know for film, but who I always think of as the original Hannah in The Rothschilds (although she also had a starring role in the original cast of Pippin).
I thank them for all their contributions, and condolences to their families, who may rest easy in the fact that these talented individuals gave us something that will live on.
Some interesting articles on names in the news, as I finish up my Saturday morning stuff:
- Stephen J. Cannell. Stephen J. Cannell died a few days ago, and the LA Times has put up a nice remembrance page, including videos of all his logos. Cannell was a staple of TV during my college and later days, with shows such as “The Rockford Files”, “The Greatest American Hero”, “The A Team”, and numerous other programs.
- Tony Curtis. Of course, the other big celebrity death this week was Tony Curtis. Most people are remembering his performances in “Some Like It Hot” or “The Defiant Ones”, but for me, the definitive proformance is Tony Curtis as The Great Leslie in “The Great Race”, one of the best comedies ever made. At least his talent will be preserved on screen forever. ETA: Tony Curtis also clearly characterized the difference between a movie star and an actor, as described by Mark Evanier.
- Al Jaffee. The NY Times has a nice profile today of Al Jaffee, long time artist for Mad Magazine. We all likely grew up with his art, and it’s nice to see he is still chugging along.
- F.A.O. Schwartz. The NY Times also has a nice article on how Toys ‘R’ Us is overhauling the F.A.O. Schwartz brand. No, there won’t be giant pianos in malls everywhere.
A few recently departed individuals whom I’d like to remember, some personally closer than others:
- Paul Karger. I learned of Paul’s death earlier today from a colleague. Paul was one of the true characters in the Computer Security field. A pioneer in multilevel security, and a key player in a little system called Multics (perhaps you’ve heard of it). Paul was a regular at the ACSAC conference, and he could always be counted on for a controversial opinion or a colorful anectdode. I’ll miss Paul. As I said in a comment when I heard his passing confirmed: Our profession is the poorer with his passing, but remains enriched by his contributions.
- Harold Gould. To most, Harold Gould is known as Rhoda Morganstern’s father, or as a character in a sitcom. I knew Mr. Gould in a different light. I saw him in person just a few months ago as Plato in Meeting of Minds. Here was a demonstration of his strength as a character actor: with little rehearsal, he just became the famed Greek philospher. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see him so close and personal so recently.
- Paul Conrad. Paul Conrad was the editorial cartoonist at the Los Angeles Times when I was growing up and in college, and it was he who taught me the power of the editorial cartoon. I still have a number of his cartoons clipped; his work is indelibly drawn in my memory. For example, after the first HOV lane went up in Southern California, he did a cartoon that showed the changable message signs that read, in order, “The Diamond Lane” / “Is Working Well” / “If You Don’t Like it” / “Go To Hell” / Caltrans. He was most notable for skewering politicians, especially Republicans, and was a strong demonstration that, under Norman Chandler, the Times was not a a Republican mouthpiece. This fact was omitted by the LA Times obituary: read the Bill Boyarsky piece on Paul Conrad for the full story.