2009 DEATHS OF FAMOUS BABY BOOMERS
PLUS DEATHS OF BOOMER FAVORITES
1926 - 2009
Early baby boomers revered Soupy Sales—TV’s loveable goofball who logged in over 5,000 live TV programs and 20,000 pies in the face. The irreverent slapstick king goes down in TV history for his famous adlib telling his young viewers to mail him those green pieces of paper with the pictures of the bearded guys that are in Mommy’s purse. Read More...
1942 - 2009
He was a master impressionist with a vocal repertoire of 360 personalities from Dean Martin to Bugs Bunny. Fred Travalena traveled the country with a highly successful act---especially suited for Vegas. He was also a 1970s TV personality who kept us amused on talk and game shows. Fred died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on June 28, 2009.
1946 - 2009
Versatile actor Ron Silver died at age 62 in 2009. Always a compelling performer, he appeared equally in films, TV and on the stage. But even after hundreds of performances he remained largely anonymous. Much of his later noteriety was due to his well-publicized switch from staunch Democrat to Bush supporter.
FAVORITES of BABY BOOMERS
1940 - 2009
He looked like he had been plucked from the surf of a Southern California beach. Photogenic blond hunk/TV star, Dennis Cole, didn’t have that signature role that would mark him specifically in pop history--though he was one of the stars of the little-remembered "Rat Patrol." Instead, he may best be remembered as 'what’s his name' on TV who was in …well ….everything. Read More...
After multiple episodes of being clobbered, crushed, thrown, burned, frozen, zapped, attacked by sea monsters, and possessed by aliens as Seaman Kowalski in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” Del Monroe finally succumbed in 2009 to leukemia. He was one of only 2 actors to have a featured part in both the series and 1961 film--a major feat after accidentally falling into the lagoon on one of his first days at work. Read More...
1935 - 2009
Shooting to fame as the wry little comic who held an oversized flower reciting far-out poems on “Laugh-In,” through a string of interestingly dark characters in film, and landing into his most recent role as cantankerous Judge Clark Brown on “Boston Legal,” character actor extraordinaire Henry Gibson became a favorite of directors Robert Altman and Joe Dante—and millions of fans over 5 decades. Read More...
1946 - 2009
She played best friend Rose to Marla Gibbs on the 1980s hit “227”---also locking horns with the hysterical Jackee on the series. Previously, Alaina Reed had a running part on “Sesame Street” for over 10 years as photographer Olivia. She went on to do a slew of commercials and TV guest-starring roles.
1930 - 2009
Sometimes it’s a tough life for sitcom wives. Mr. Ed wouldn’t talk to her. Wilbur preferred his horse to his wife. Connie Hines lamented that her character of Carol Post in one of TV’s first fantasy sitcoms was little more than window-dressing. But boys enjoyed her tight-sweatered charms as much as Mr. Ed’s irreverence. In the 90s, reruns of “Mr. Ed” hit big in syndication and new fans emerged. Dubiously, one of Connie's first TV appearances was on the Quiz-Show-Scandal tainted “Dotto.”
1918 - 2009
Bespectacled geeky character actor Arnold Stang was a popular radio performer who moved on to TV courtesy of Milton Berle and Henry Morgan. He hit the big screen with memorable film roles in “Man With the Golden Arm,” “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” and cult oddity “Hercules in New York” with another famous Arnold (The Governator). He gave voice to many cartoon characters over the years including the baby boomer favorite Top Cat in the early 60s.
1948 - 2009
He was “England Dan” of England Dan & John Ford Coley fame--- otherwise known as the singers of major 1976 smash “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.” They had 6 Top 30 hits in the late 70s and rode the crest of the soft rock era. After the group’s break-up, Dan Seals went on to record over 20 country singles. He is also the younger brother of Jim Seals of “Seals & Crofts.” He died March 25, 2009 of mantle cell lymphoma.
FAVORITES OF BABY BOOMERS
"Puff the Magic Dragon," "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "If I Had a Hammer"... Her earnest and passionate vocal delivery stands out--as a member of the most successful folk group in the history of music. Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow, and Noel Paul Stookey combined beautiful harmonies with ‘60s activism to become the iconic Peter, Paul & Mary. In the process, Mary also became the archetype of the female folk singer. Read More...
GORDON WALLER (left)
Singing duo Peter & Gordon were in the first wave of the British Invasion. Their voices were magical together—those smooth harmonies were a prelude to the upcoming folk-rock sound. They had 10 Top 40 hits between 1964 and 1967 including their first-- #1 smash “A World Without Love.” The rise to the top was extremely swift. Why? It didn’t hurt that Peter’s sister Jane Asher was Paul McCartney’s girl friend. Paul handed over four of his compositions to the boys—all of which landed in the Top 20. Read More...
1963 - 2009
If you believe that talent in famous acting families is passed down through their genes, then Natasha Richardson might be your case in point. She is the member of the renowned Redgrave family, being the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director John Richardson. But as gifted as Natasha was on stage and in film, she'll unfortunately be remembered more for her untimely and startling death. Read More...
FAVORITES of BABY BOOMERS
Broadway’s Bea Arthur was already 50 years old and a baritone when she received her first TV series. 1972’s “Maude” echoed the decade’s changing views on women’s rights. And when Bea morphed into Dorothy of “Golden Girls,” she showed that an even older woman doesn’t need to lose her spunk. Her razor sharp quips and deadpan stares became part of a routine which carried her through a career that spanned 7 decades.
Oldest son of horror legend John Carradine, David (along with his brothers) followed the family’s trade. Starting in his early 20s on 1960s TV, he finally got his own series in 1972---a sort of philosophical Western. He seemed to embody the character of Caine (a wanted shaven-headed Buddhist monk) in the 3-season cult hit, “Kung Fu.” He never stopped working, going on to appear in over 100 films (including the more recent “Kill Bill”) and scores of TV series (including a return to his past series the 1990's “Kung Fu, Revisited”).
If Latino Ricardo Montalban had simply been a 1940s movie star, he would not have become a baby boomer favorite. But the 1970s brought him new acclaim. “The plane! The plane!” In an impeccably pressed white suit, Mr Roarke (Montalban) greeted a slew of guest stars every Saturday night. In tandem with the popular “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” became a hit on its own for 6 seasons. In the meantime, he was praising the “Corinthian leather” of the new Chrysler Cordoba and reprising his role of Khan in “Star Trek."
Whether he was a sidekick to Burt Reynolds or a zany character turning up with Mel Brooks or Gene Wilder, character actor Dom DeLuise could always get a laugh. One of his very few serious roles was his first---in 1964’s nuclear disaster themed “Fail-Safe.” But after that, it was all comedy. He was willing to do anything and his outlandishness made him a favorite of directors, fellow actors, and audiences alike. And if you didn’t notice, the rotund character actor was also a cook, writing several cookbooks.
Starting off in the 50s sci-fi classic “War of the Worlds,” Gene Barry went on to become a star on television. His handsome good looks scored him a semi-regular role on “Our Miss Brooks,” but his real breakthrough was “Bat Masterson.” The series was a bit of a departure from the rough-and-tumble Westerns of the 50s featuring a cowboy who wore three-piece suits and carried a walking cane. He continued the persona into the 60s as millionaire detective Amos Burke in the classic “Burke’s Law” and 70s “The Name of the Game.” He also had a major stage triumph later in life with "La Cage."
Ed McMahon was the ultimate sidekick. For 30 years he expertly egged on “Tonight Show” star Johnny Carson. They met in 1957 on game show “Who Do You Trust?” Ed branched out on his own (“StarSearch,” "TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes”) and was also Jerry Lewis' co-host on his Labor Day telethon. His “Here’s Johnny” intro on every Tonight Show telecast continues to be cited as a top catch-phrase. And let us not forget that we all hoped he would visit our house with news that we had won the Publishers Clearing House Million Dollar Prize!
DICKIE PETERSON (front)
of BLUE CHEER
One of the first “acid rockers.” Dickie Peterson (front) was the lead singer and bass player in the San Francisco-based group known in the late 60s as “The Loudest Group on the Planet.” He named his psychedelic blues band after a potent strain of LSD—Blue Cheer. The group recorded 6 decibel-splitting albums from 1968 to 1972 and one unforgettable single “Summertime Blues” —blazing the early trail of the metal scene. Read More...
SKY SAXON (3rd from Left)
of THE SEEDS
19?? - 2009
He was the youthful driving force & lead singer of the 60s rock group known for flower power garage rock with an attitude. Sky Saxon's raspy, belligerent whine worked perfectly with a relentless psychedelic organ to produce 2 classics by The Seeds---“Pushin’ Too Hard” and "I Can’t Seem to Make You Mine.” He died almost unnoticed on June 25---the same day as Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Read More...
Lead singer and flamboyant lead singer of early punk group, “The Cramps,” Lux Interior (alias Erick Lee Purkhiser) died February 4, 2009 of aortic dissection. Starting out in New York at CBGB’s, the Cramps’ music was known as psychobilly. But they were equally recognized for their stage forays into the extreme--- sexuality, sci-fi, horror, fetishes, and other brands of exploitation. One of their last hits was “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns.”
***MEMBERS OF FAVORITE GROUPS***
RANDY CAIN (right)
Founding member of the Delfonics (“La La Means I Love You,” “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time”) Randy Cain died at age 63. The group defined the smooth early Philadelphia sound with their late 60s/early 70s recordings. They won an R&B Grammy in 1970. Cain went on later to help form the group Blue Magic.
ESTELLE BENNETT (right)
Estelle Bennett of The Ronettes (big sister to lead singer Ronnie Spector) died at age 67. The Ronettes were one of the early girl groups who scored a huge hit with Wall of Sound recording “Be My Baby.” After rocking through the early 60s with their bad girl image of big hair and short skirts, they disbanded in 1966. Estelle’s life went tragically downhill--- accelerated by anorexia, mental illness, and homelessness.
DRAKE LEVIN (right)
Drake Levin was lead guitar for baby boomer favorites “Paul Revere & the Raiders.” Dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms and known for their zany antics, the group had major hits “Kicks,” “Hungry,” “Steppin' Out,” and “Good Thing.” Drake’s double tracked guitar solo on breakout hit “Just Like Me” helped skyrocket the group to fame in late 1965.
ERIC WOOLFSON (left)
He was the other half of the Alan Parsons Project, the British progressive rock super-group. With Parsons' engineering know-how and Scotsman Eric Woolfson’s dynamic songwriting, vocal, and piano skills, the group became an underground favorite whose albums include the 1982 smash, “Eye In the Sky.”
1950 - 2009
Baby boomer John Hughes was responsible for some of the most successful early GenX movies ever. Well-known as a director of such hits as “Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Weird Science,” and “Sixteen Candles,” he was also involved in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Home Alone,” and “Mr. Mom” (writer); and “101 Dalmations” and “Pretty in Pink” (producer).
CULT FIGURES WE LOST IN 2009
Playing the deadly Count Yorga in two successful low-budget films of the 70s has made Robert Quarry a cult film favorite. Originally conceived as a soft porn feature, “The Loves of Count Yorga” was switched to mainstream horror when Quarry signed on. His “Dashing, Dark, and Deadly” vampire character prompted AIP to groom him as Vincent Price’s obvious successor. Watch your back, Vincent! Read More...
He was one of the inhabitants of that infamous Southern California beach where Frankie and Annette hung out in the mid-Sixties. At 6’ 3”, Jody McCrea towered over the more diminutive stars of the Beach Blanket set playing the dim but amusing Deadhead (later renamed Bonehead) in 6 Beach Party movies. Read More...
It’s not just baby boomers who know “I Love Lucy” by heart. Two of the more memorable characters who appeared on the show, the Borden twins (Marilyn & Roz) played Teensy & Weensy in the 1955 episode “Tennessee Bound” as the sheriff’s daughters. The twins continued to guest on television and made many stage appearances until Roz died in 2003.
“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” Well, he wasn’t the voice, but Bob May did don the prop/costume for TV’s most beloved Robot in 83 episodes of the 1965-68 series “Lost In Space.” The bubble-headed booby as Dr. Smith would call him, became one of the most popular members of the cast.
She was one of the titans of porn in the 1970s. Marilyn Chambers got her first big break as a model on the cover of the Ivory Snow box holding a baby with the words “99 & 44/100% pure.” The scandal that ensued when she starred in a breakout X-rated porn film “Behind the Green Door” made her a star. The movie was one of the first of its ilk to have a real plot and received favorable reviews. She tried to parlay her notoriety into mainstream movies (“Rabid”) with little success.
An icon in gay adult films, Jack Wrangler was the macho-man/guy next-door fantasy of the 1970s. The gay cinema flourished as his movies were released. But his early successes (“Kansas City Trucking Company,” “A Night at The Adonis”) were never matched when he switched to straight adult films later in his career. He married 50s songstress Margaret Whiting in 1994 and wrote and directed her cabaret shows.
1952 - 2009
It’s hard to find the perfect combination of masculinity and gracefulness, but Patrick Swayze filled the bill. With the one-two punch of “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost,” he achieved superstardom in his 30s. He started out as a dancer---but when an old football injury forced him to abandon a dancing career, he switched to acting. However, the training served him well—his agility set him apart from the other up and coming heartthrobs of the 80s. Read More...
BEFORE WE GET TO THE ICON OF THE 70S
HERE ARE 2 ICONS OF THE 50S
From Mary Pickford to Jennifer Aniston, there has always been an America’s Sweetheart. In the 1950s, it was Gale Storm’s turn. She was already a star in B-movies in the 1940s when she took the risky step of turning to television. “My Little Margie” gave her the signature role that would make her famous. But it was not all happy times—when the 1950s ended, so did her career. For 2 decades, alcohol helped her spiral downward. But her triumphant recovery would become an inspiration. Read More...
The original Mouseketeers were all baby boomer icons. When they start dying off, we can see time counting down. Cheryl Holdridge's blonde locks and golden smile fit in perfectly with the wholesome look of the most popular kids in 1950s America---a group so well-known that they were identified only by their first names emblazoned on their chests. Read More...
1947 - 2009
There was no one bigger in 1976 than Farrah Fawcett. Her poster adorned bedroom walls of boys around the country, women copied her famous Farrah hairstyle, and she was in the hit TV show of the season “Charlie’s Angels.” The show had jiggled its way to the top of TV charts and onto magazine covers—and Farrah became its breakout star. But after only one year she quit the series, making people wonder why she would commit such career suicide. Read More...
IT HAPPENS IN 3'S
THE THREE 12-YEAR-OLD
"I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS"
SINGERS WHO ALL DIED IN 2009
Goofy freckled-faced youngster Jimmy Boyd was a national sensation in 1952 with his squeaky-voiced rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Hard to believe the innocent little tune was condemned by the Catholic Church as too suggestive saying it linked the holy day of Christmas with sex. What?! But the kid had moxie; he traveled to Boston himself to convince the church officials otherwise. Read More...
She started as a pig-tailed moppet rocketing to fame singing the country version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952. Molly Bee had no problem transitioning to adult star. A great stage personality with a crystal clear voice (and a penchant for yodeling) helped her become a staple in the country music field. Read More...
---AND OF COURSE DOING ONE OF THE BEST VERSIONS---
1958 - 2009
Who was Michael Jackson? Some say the real MJ was the one onstage. That was where he felt at home, in his body, and in control. It was certainly different from the shy soft-spoken oddball who in interviews seemed to inhabit the character of Peter Pan, the boy who would never grow up. Was this extraordinarily talented entertainer another tortured out-of-touch genius living in a fantasy world? He has joined the ranks of the top-echelon icons whose lives are debated decades after their deaths. Elvis, Sinatra, James Dean, Valentino, Marilyn, and now Michael…. Read More...