Saturday, October 31, 2015

CELEBRITY ADS: BORIS KARLOFF

We can not let Halloween pass without something about one of the greatest horror stars of all time - Boris Karloff! Here is a print ad Karloff did around the 1940 period. Even horror stars need shaving cream! Spooky indeed...



Friday, October 30, 2015

RIP: AL MOLINARO

Al Molinaro, who played the beloved chef at the drive-in on "Happy Days" ... died in a Wisconsin hospital on Thursday.

Molinaro's son confirmed the actor's death ... telling us he had very bad gall stones, but Al elected not to have surgery due to his age. He was 96.

Al moved to California in the early 1950s and worked odd jobs, finally saving enough money to start his own collection agency. He eventually sold his business and became interested in southern California real estate speculation. His investments paid off when one of his properties was purchased by a conglomerate which used the land to build one of the largest retail shopping malls of its day.

As a result, Molinaro was already financially independent when he decided to pursue his longtime dream of being an actor. He began his role as Officer Murray Greshler on The Odd Couple by poking his nose through the peephole doorway of Oscar and Felix's apartment, prior to walking in. His nose, by itself, got so many laughs it changed the flow of the scene. Murray was an instant hit with fans, and Molinaro became an "overnight success" after years of struggling in the entertainment business.

On "Happy Days" he played Big Al, who started out as the chef at Arnold's Drive-In. He eventually became owner of the Fonz's fave hangout, and remained on the show for 10 years.

Molinaro also played the Big Al role on the spinoff, "Joanie Loves Chachi." His character would famously spin long tales ... that always started with, "Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep ... "

Al is survived by his wife, Betty and his son Michael .. who tells us the actor was extremely proud of his family and his roots in Kenosha, Wisconsin...



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

HAUNTED HOLLYWOOD: NATALIE WOOD

The owner of the yacht on which Natalie Wood was last seen claims the boat is haunted by the former actress.

Ron Nelson told Radar Online that the spirit of the Hollywood star is haunting him and he is so spooked he is selling the "Splendour."

He claims he has had several unexplained accidents on the boat and once felt a strange presence beside him.

"I've been hurt twice in the boat mysteriously. Weird falls. It's just like my feet came out from under me and I fell," he said.

On a trip to Hawaii, he became even more spooked.

"Something sat down on the bed and then left," he said.

Nelson even had the boat blessed by two Hawaiian priests — or kahunas — to cleanse the vessel.

But there may be another reason for selling up. The "Splendour" was damaged in a recent hurricane.

Wood was on the boat in November 1981 while on a weekend trip to Santa Catalina Island, Calif., with her husband Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken.

Her body was discovered a mile away from the boat and her death was initially as an accident by drowning and hypothermia.

The “Rebel Without a Cause” and “West Side Story” star was just 43 at the time of her death.

The cause of death was subsequently changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors" two years ago, following claims by the boat's captain Denis Davern that he had lied during the investigation and that Wood and Wagner had fought in the evening prior to Wood's death...

Monday, October 26, 2015

RIP: MAUREEN O'HARA

Maureen O'Hara, the flame-haired Irish movie star who appeared in classics ranging from the grim "How Green Was My Valley" to the uplifting "Miracle on 34th Street" and bantered unforgettably with John Wayne in several films, has died. She was 95. O'Hara died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho, said Johnny Nicoletti, her longtime manager.

"She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, 'The Quiet Man,'" said a statement from her family.

"As an actress, Maureen O'Hara brought unyielding strength and sudden sensitivity to every role she played. Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life. She was also proudly Irish and spent her entire lifetime sharing her heritage and the wonderful culture of the Emerald Isle with the world," said a family biography.

O'Hara came to Hollywood to star in the 1939 "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and went on to a long career.

After her start in Hollywood with "Hunchback" and some minor films at RKO, she was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play the beautiful young daughter in the 1941 saga of a coal-mining family, "How Green Was My Valley."


"How Green Was My Valley" went on to win five Oscars including best picture and best director for John Ford, beating out Orson Welles and "Citizen Kane" among others. It was the first of several films she made under the direction of Ford, who grouchy nature seemed to melt in her presence.

The popularity of "How Green Was My Valley" confirmed O'Hara's status as a Hollywood star. RKO and Fox shared her contract, and her most successful films were made at Fox.

They included "Miracle on 34th Street," the classic 1947 Christmas story in which O'Hara was little Natalie Wood's skeptical mother and among those charmed by Edmund Gwenn as a man who believed he was Santa Claus.

Other films included the costume drama "The Foxes of Harrow" (Rex Harrison, 1947); the comedy "Sitting Pretty" (Clifton Webb, 1948); and the sports comedy "Father Was a Fullback" (Fred MacMurray, 1949).

With Ford's "Rio Grande" in 1950, O'Hara became Wayne's favorite leading lady. The most successful of their five films was the 1952 "The Quiet Man," also directed by Ford, in which she matched Wayne blow for blow in a classic donnybrook.

She was also in "Spencer's Mountain" with Henry Fonda (1963), a precursor to TV's "The Waltons"; and a Western, "The Rare Breed," with James Stewart (1966).


In 1968, she married her third husband, Brig. Gen. Charles Blair. After "Big Jake," she quit movies to live with him in the Virgin Islands, where he operated an airline. He died in a plane crash in 1978.

"Being married to Charlie Blair and traveling all over the world with him, believe me, was enough for any woman," she said in a 1995 Associated Press interview. "It was the best time of my life."

She returned to movies in 1991 for a role that writer-director Chris Columbus had written especially for her, as John Candy's feisty mother in a sentimental drama, "Only the Lonely." It was not a box-office success.

Over the following decade, she did three TV movies: "The Christmas Box," based on a best-selling book, a perennial holiday attraction; "Cab to Canada," a road picture; and "The Last Dance."


While making "The Christmas Box" in 1995, she admitted that roles for someone her age (75), were scarce: "The older a man gets, the younger the parts that he plays. The older a woman gets, you've got to find parts that are believable. Since I'm not a frail character, it's not that easy."

Maureen FitzSimons was born in 1920 near Dublin, Ireland. Her mother was a well-known opera singer, and her father owned a string of soccer teams. Through her father, she learned to love sports; through her mother, she and her five siblings were exposed to the theater.

"My first ambition was to be the No. 1 actress in the world," she recalled in 1999. "And when the whole world bowed at my feet, I would retire in glory and never do anything again."

She is survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons of Glengarriff, Ireland; her grandson, Conor FitzSimons of Boise and two great-grandchildren...


MY GRANDMOTHER AND THE CHARLESTON

As you get older time just feels like it is speeding up. It seems like only yesterday I was going to grade school or learning to drive. Here I am with children of my own now, and I realize time waits for no one.

Today would be my Grandmother's 100th birthday. It is hard to imagine. My Grandmother was born on October 26, 1915 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being of 100% Irish descent, she also came from a large Catholic family. She had two brothers and four sisters, and she was the youngest of them. My Grandmother was more reserve, even shy, as compared to her other siblings. Two of her sisters used to sell bathtub gin and were arrested during Prohibition!

My Grandmother met my Grandfather, who was 100% Sicilian at the age of 17. He was eight years older than her, but it didn't matter, and they were married in 1933. For years they tried to have a child, and were just about ready to give up when my Father was born in 1946. The pregnancy was a difficult one, and my Father would be an only child.

My Grandfather provided well for the family, but he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 62. My Grandmother worked as a care giver at a nursing home. Being 100% Irish, I feel at times my Grandmother was cold and distant, but she was old school. I was a pretty wild child, and I remember her watching me once, and I broke her glasses and gave her a couple of nasty bruises.

What I will always remember about my Grandmother is that she taught me how to do the Charleston. Surprisingly I remember that dance to this day. Like I said, she was usually reserved and quiet, but when she was teaching me the dance (it was probably around 1980ish) it was like my Grandmother was back in the 1920s and 1930s. I will always remember that.

Sadly my Parents divorced, and my Father died in 1991. After that I really didn't see my Grandmother much. Losing her only child must have been painful for her, because she pretty much withdrew from the world as far as I could tell. She died of pneumonia in 1998.

So as I commemorate what would have been my Grandmother's 100th birthday, I wish I would have gotten to know her more...especially in her later years. However, I always have fond memories of dancing the Charleston with her!


Friday, October 23, 2015

THE SAGA OF SONG OF THE SOUTH

Song of the South, a 1946 Disney film mixing animation and live action, was based on the "Uncle Remus" stories of Joel Chandler Harris. Harris, who had grown up in Georgia during the Civil War, spent a lifetime compiling and publishing the tales told to him by former slaves.

These stories — many of which Harris learned from an old Black man he called "Uncle George" — were first published as columns in The Atlanta Constitution and were later syndicated nationwide and published in book form. Harris's Uncle Remus was a fictitious old slave and philosopher who told entertaining fables about Br'er Rabbit and other woodland creatures in a Southern Black dialect.

Song of the South consists of animated sequences featuring Uncle Remus characters such as Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear, framed by live-action portions in which Uncle Remus (portrayed by actor James Baskett, who won a special Oscar for his efforts) tells the stories to a little white boy upset over his parents' impending divorce. Although some Blacks have always been uneasy about the minstrel tradition of the Uncle Remus stories, the major objections to Song of the South had to do with the live action portions. The film has been criticized both for "making slavery appear pleasant" and "pretending slavery didn't exist", even though the film (like Harris' original collection of stories) is set after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

Still, as folklorist Patricia A. Turner writes:
"Disney's 20th century re-creation of Harris's frame story is much more heinous than the original. The days on the plantation located in "the United States of Georgia" begin and end with unsupervised Blacks singing songs about their wonderful home as they march to and from the fields. Disney and company made no attempt to to render the music in the style of the spirituals and work songs that would have been sung during this era. They provided no indication regarding the status of the Blacks on the plantation. Joel Chandler Harris set his stories in the post-slavery era, but Disney's version seems to take place during a surreal time when Blacks lived on slave quarters on a plantation, worked diligently for no visible reward and considered Atlanta a viable place for an old Black man to set out for." 


Kind old Uncle Remus caters to the needs of the young white boy whose father has inexplicably left him and his mother at the plantation. An obviously ill-kept Black child of the same age named Toby is assigned to look after the white boy, Johnny. Although Toby makes one reference to his "ma," his parents are nowhere to be seen. The African-American adults in the film pay attention to him only when he neglects his responsibilities as Johnny's playmate-keeper. He is up before Johnny in the morning in order to bring his white charge water to wash with and keep him entertained.

The boys befriend a little blond girl, Ginny, whose family clearly represents the neighborhood's white trash. Although Johnny coaxes his mother into inviting Ginny to his fancy birthday party at the big house, Toby is curiously absent from the party scenes. Toby is good enough to catch frogs with, but not good enough to have birthday cake with. When Toby and Johnny are with Uncle Remus, the gray-haired Black man directs most of his attention to the white child. Thus Blacks on the plantation are seen as willingly subservient to the whites to the extent that they overlook the needs of their own children. When Johnny's mother threatens to keep her son away from the old gentleman's cabin, Uncle Remus is so hurt that he starts to run away. In the world that Disney made, the Blacks sublimate their own lives in order to be better servants to the white family. If Disney had truly understood the message of the tales he animated so delightfully, he would have realized the extent of distortion of the frame story.


The NAACP acknowledged "the remarkable artistic merit" of the film when it was first released, but decried "the impression it gives of an idyllic master-slave relationship". Disney re-released the film in 1956, but then kept it out of circulation all throughout the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s. In 1970 Disney announced in Variety that Song of the South had been "permanently" retired, but the studio eventually changed its mind and re-released the film in 1972, 1981, and again in 1986 for a fortieth anniversary celebration. Although the film has only been released to the home video market in various European and Asian countries, Disney's reluctance to market it in the USA is not a reaction to an alleged threat by the NAACP to boycott Disney products. The NAACP fielded objections to Song of the South when it premiered, but it has no current position on the movie.

Perhaps lost in all the controversy over the film is the fact that James Baskett (1904-1948), a black man, was the very first live actor ever hired by Disney. Allegedly, though, Baskett was unable to attend the film's premiere in Atlanta because no hotel would give him a room...


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

INVITATION TO THE DANCE: A 1956 REVIEW

Here is a 1956 Gene Kelly movie I have always wanted to see. This is the New York Times review from May 23, 1956...

THERE is a lot to be seen of Gene Kelly in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Invitation to the Dance," an extraordinary choreographic picture, which came to the Plaza last night. He virtually gives a twinkle-toes recital in this three-part, no-dialogue dance film. Furthermore, he created the dances and directed the whole shebang.

Mr. Kelly deserves some admiration. So does Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for letting him go at this picture and footing the obviously high costs. For "Invitation to the Dance" is most unusual in its creative concept and form, and it certainly represents a departure from the ordinary song-and-dance film. At the same time, it throws a heap of hoofing of a rather gaudy sort into one show. And because it has nothing but dancing, it is likely to have limited appeal.

As we say, the picture is in three parts, each approximately thirty minutes long. The first is a semi-classical ballet called "Circus," in which Mr. Kelly plays a clown; you know, a standard Pagliacci: he's in love with the pretty acrobat, who has eyes only for the high-wire walker. And it ends with the death of the clown.


In this one, Mr. Kelly reminds us of Marcel Marceau, with his chalked face, his pantomimic gestures and his resolutely melancholy air. Igor Youskevitch is strong as the wire-walker and Claire Sombert makes a lovely acrobat. The three of them dance very nicely in a formal, postured ballet.

The second of the numbers is a modern, satiric, theatrical thing which Mr. Kelly calls "Ring Around the Rosy" and which may have been inspired by the French film "La Ronde." It follows the course of a bracelet from a doting husband to a faithless wife to a fickle lover and so forth to a prostitute and back to the husband again. The most imaginative and amusing thing in it is a wailing, groaning trombone that represents the voice of a shiny-haired crooner. On the whole, it is rather banal.


Mr. Kelly does a small part in this one. He's a marine who comes home to find his girl has received the bracelet (for services rendered). He takes it away from her and passes it on to the prostitute, danced by Tamara Toumanova. She is the most striking of the several girls.
The last number, "Sinbad the Sailor," has Mr. Kelly and a little boy, David Kasday, dancing "live-action" within the frame of an animated cartoon. This one, while technically clever, is neither irrestible nor original, Mr. Kelly did the same sort of thing much better in the eleven-year-old musical "Anchors Aweigh."

Arthur Freed, the producer, has surrounded Mr. Kelly with glittering theatrical déecor, which looks very pretty in color, and three elaborate musical scores. They are slightly more sophisticated and skillful than his eclectic choreography.

This film represents a brave experiment, but it would have been more commendable if Mr. Kelly had been more fertile with ideas and less inclined to overdo...




Sunday, October 18, 2015

WILLIAM POWELL AND HIS ONLY TRAGEDY

It does not seem easy to be a child of a famous person. Sometimes it is not even easy to be the child of someone not famous! William Powell (1892-1984) was one of the greatest actors that classic Hollywood ever knew. Unfortunately, his only child met a sad and tragic end.

Born on February 27, 1925, William Powell Jr was the only child of William Powell and his first wife Eileen Wilson nine years into their on again off again marriage during a period of reconciliation between the two. They had originally married back in 1915..  They would finally divorce in 1930. His mother died at the young age of 48 in 1942.  As a boy William Jr was apparently plagued by emotional problems.

He would become a television writer, whose work was seen on such series as 'Bonanza,' 'Death Valley,' 'Rawhide,' and '77 Sunset Strip.' He served as an associate producer at Warner Brothers Studios and at Universal Studios as well as holding a position at NBC.

After ill health precipitated his resignation, he was diagnosed with hepatitis and kidney ailments. His lifelong struggle with depression deepened, and at the age of 43, he wrote his father a four page farewell stating that he was "... going where it's better," stepped into a shower, and stabbed himself to death on March 13, 1968. His father never revealed anything else about the letter except the end of it. He was laid to rest at Cathedral City's Desert Memorial Park in Riverside County, California. 

William Powell Sr retired from Hollywood in 1955 after filming a great role in the comedy Mister Roberts. Powell had difficulties retaining his lines during the filming of  Mr. Roberts, something that had not happened to him in earlier films, and this was one of the reasons why this was his final film appearance. Frail health, including bouts with cancer, plus a difficult Hawaii location shoot ultimately led to the actor's retirement decision. He reportedly never got over his only child's death. The elder Powell died at the advanced age of 91 on March 5, 1984.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

RIP: JOAN LESLIE

Joan Leslie, best known for a string of roles opposite some of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s golden age before her 18th birthday, died October 12 at age 90, her family announced today. Described in her time as projecting “sweet innocence without seeming too sugary,” among her most notable roles was the title character’s wife in Sergeant York, alongside Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra, in Yankee Doodle Dandy opposite James Cagney, and with Fred Astaire in The Sky’s the Limit.

Born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in 1925 in Detroit, she began her show business career during the great depression, playing vaudville alongside members of her family as a way of making ends meet. She and her sisters toured Canada and the Midwest as The Three Brodels, bypassing child labor laws by lying about their ages. (Leslie once claimed when she was only 9 years old that she was actually 16.) When her sister signed a modeling contract, the family moved to Burbank, and shortly after, at age 11, Leslie signed with MGM, for whom she appeared in several uncredited roles.


Her big break came in 1940 when she signed with Warner Bros, performing in her most famous roles during the period either for WB or other studios to whom she was lent out. Among her other films during this period were The Hard Way,This Is the Army, Thank Your Lucky Stars, and Cinderella Jones. Devoutly religious, she became dissatisfied with the roles made available to her for both professional and moral reasons, and sued Warner Bros in 1946 to get out of her contract. Though she was successful, her career suffered after this when, as she later revealed in interviews, she was blacklisted by Jack Warner and unable to find work at any other major studio.


She married William Caldwell, an obstetrician, in 1950 and after the couple had twin daughters slowed her acting career considerably to focus on her family. Her final film was the 1956 romantic drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover, which also starred Jane Russell, Richard Egan, Agnes Moorehead, and Michael Pate. In later years she made sporadic appearances on television, including episodes of Charlie’s Angels, The Incredible Hulk, and Murder, She Wrote. She retired from acting in 1991.

In addition to her acting career, she founded a line of clothing. She and her husband remained married until his death in 2000, after which she founded the Dr. William G. and Joan L. Caldwell Chair in Gynecologic Oncology for the University of Louisville. A funeral mass is scheduled for 10 AM on October 19, at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Los Angeles...


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

BORN ON THIS DAY: ALLAN JONES

I am not a huge opera singing fan. Sometimes I feel the singing is so shrill, but I wanted to take the time to remember a tenor that I have enjoyed through the years. Allan Jones was born on this day in 1907. He was born in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. Jones, of Welsh ancestry, appeared on Broadway a few times, including 1933's Roberta and the short-lived 1934 revival of Bitter Sweet. He starred in many film musicals during the 1930s and 1940s. The best-known of these were Show Boat (1936), and The Firefly (1937) in which he sang "Donkey Serenade." It became his signature song. He is now best remembered, however, as the romantic straight man to the Marx Brothers in their first two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films: A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.

On the strength of his appearance in A Night at the Opera, he won the coveted role of Gaylord Ravenal in the 1936 film version of Show Boat (opposite Irene Dunne) over such screen musical favorites as Nelson Eddy and John Boles. It would be Jones's most distinguished screen role in which, under the direction of James Whale, he displayed dramatic acting ability, as well as musical talent.

He made a brief appearance in the 1936 Nelson Eddy - Jeanette MacDonald film Rose Marie, singing music from Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette and Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, but according to Merchant of Dreams, Charles Higham's biography of Louis B. Mayer, Eddy, who apparently considered Jones a rival and a potential threat, asked that most of Jones's footage in Rose Marie be cut, including his rendition of the great Puccini aria E lucevan le stelle - and MGM agreed to Eddy's demand.


In 1940, he moved to Universal for two musicals, both with scores by immortal composers: The Boys from Syracuse, with the stage score (severely cut) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and One Night in the Tropics, with an original score by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields which produced no hit songs. Following those, he slipped to leads in B musicals, two at Paramount, then eight at Universal, including a re-teaming with Kitty Carlisle in Larceny with Music (1943). The same year, he briefly returned to A’s by guesting, as himself, in the Olsen and Johnson musical Crazy House, where he again performed "Donkey Serenade."

In the mid 1960s the busy Jones managed to fit a few appearances on television and in movies into his busy theater, nightclub, and recording career. In 1971, he took on the role of Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha", a role he would perform off and on for the next eight years. He also was very successful on the lecture circuit. In 1982, the 75-year-old Jones cut yet another LP, his voice belying his age: as clear and vibrant as singers a third his age. Jones continued to work for the remainder of his life, finishing a successful tour of Australia a few weeks before his death, at 84, in 1992...


Sunday, October 11, 2015

COMING SOON: THE DANNY KAYE SHOW TO DVD


During its four year run from 1963 - 1967, the Emmy Award winning The Danny Kaye Show and its host welcomed some of the greatest performers in the entertainment industry. Danny Kaye: Legends (MVD Visual – 10/16/2105 - SRP $24.95) collects six classic and complete episodes of the show featuring guest stars Louis Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, George Burns, Imogene Coca, Shirley Jones and Liberace.

To see the trailer for Danny Kaye: Legends, visit - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mqs-iquAl0

The collection also features performances by the Righteous Brothers (singing their number one hit “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”) French songstress Mireille Mathieu, Vikki Carr and John Gary. Also featured are series regulars Harvey Korman (pre The Carol Burnett Show), Joyce Van Patten and orchestra leader Paul Weston.

All of Danny Kaye’s remarkable talents are on display in Danny Kaye Legends from clowning in sketches with Ball, Burns, Coca and Liberace to singing duets with Gray, Jones and Satchmo (When The Saints Go Marching In) he’s in wonderful company.

Danny Kaye: Legends is a 2 DVD disc set, approximately 300 minutes long in color and black & white. Executive Producers are Dena Kaye and Edward Weidenfeld © 2015 Dena’s Trust.

For more information, please visit Danny Kaye visit www.dannykaye.com

Friday, October 9, 2015

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE MOMENTS

It is really hard to capture 40 years of Saturday Night Live in pictures. There are some memorable skits though that when you see them you will instantly remember them. I just picked out six photos of SNL skits that were memorable to me...

CHRIS FARLEY: "Living in a van down by the river"

STEVE MARTIN and DAN ACKROYD: "Two wild and crazy guys"


GILDA RADNER & STEVE MARTIN: a simple comedic dance with no words


BILL MURRAY: "Lounge Singer"

WILL FERRELL and DARRELL HAMMOND: "Celebrity Jeopardy"


WILL FERRELL: "We need more cowbell"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN BELUSHI

Many Saturday Night Live alumni faced drug addiction, both during and after their time on the popular comedy series. One of the first casualties to drugs and one of the most tragic was the death of John Belushi. On March 5, 1982, after showing up at his hotel for a scheduled workout, his trainer, Bill Wallace found Belushi dead in his room, Bungalow 3 at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. He was 33 years old.

The cause of death was an overdose of cocaine and heroin, a drug combination also known as a speedball. In the early morning hours on the day of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, each of whom left the premises, leaving Belushi in the company of assorted others, including Catherine Evelyn Smith. His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Dr. Ryan Norris, among others, and, while the findings were disputed, it was officially ruled a drug-related accident.

Two months later, Smith admitted in an interview with the National Enquirer that she had been with Belushi the night of his death and had given him the fatal speedball shot. After the appearance of the article "I Killed Belushi" in the Enquirer edition of June 29, 1982, the case was reopened. Smith was extradited from Toronto, Ontario, arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A plea bargain reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter, and she served fifteen months in prison.


Belushi's wife arranged for a traditional Orthodox Christian funeral which was conducted by an Albanian Orthodox priest. She also recruited the couple's good friend, James Taylor, who postponed the European leg of his current tour to come and sing his haunting ballad, 'That Lonesome Road', at the morning grave site service. He has been interred twice at Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. A tombstone marking the original burial location has a New England classic slate design, complete with skull and crossbones, that reads, "I may be gone but Rock and Roll lives on." An unmarked tombstone in an undisclosed location marks the final burial location. He is also remembered on the Belushi family stone marking his mother's grave at Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois. This stone reads, "He gave us laughter".

At the time of his death, Belushi was pursuing several movie projects, including Moons Over Miami with Louis Malle, National Lampoon's The Joy of Sex and Noble Rot, a script that had been adapted and rewritten by himself and former Saturday Night Live writer, Don Novello in the weeks leading up to his death. He was also scheduled to work with Aykroyd on Ghostbusters and Spies Like Us.

Belushi also made a "Guest Star Appearance" on an episode of the television series Police Squad! (1982) which showed him underwater wearing cement shoes. He died shortly before the episode aired, so the scene was cut and replaced by a segment with William Conrad.

Again, John Belushi died too young and too tragically...


Sunday, October 4, 2015

BILL MURRAY: THE LAST NIGHT I SAW GILDA RADNER


Funny girl Gilda Radner died way too young of cancer in 1989 at the age of 42. She seemed to touch every life she came in contact with including fellow comedian Bill Murray. Here is Bill's story about the last night he saw Gilda Radner...


Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.


So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”

We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know.

And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.

It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her...


Friday, October 2, 2015

MY FIVE FAVORITE SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE STARS

As we celebrate a week of Saturday Night live stories, I wanted to start out with a list of my five favorite alumni from the show. That show, which has been on for 40 years has been the showcase from some of the greatest comedians our present entertainment industry has ever known. Here are my five favorites...


5. TINA FEY (2000-2006)
Tina Fey breathed new life into Weekend Update, bringing sharp, literate political satire to what had been a regularly scheduled dead spot for years. It says a lot that the show's best political joke since her departure has been the Sarah Palin impression she started doing as a special guest.

4. WILL FERRELL (1995-2002)
Long before Old School, Ferrell looked like the friendly, super-straight guy at the fraternity beer bash who'd been putting off graduation for too long because he wasn't looking forward to managing his dad's construction firm. Watching strange demons take over that normal-looking countenance was a joke that seldom got tired. His surrealist sensibilities carried the show for years. 


3. JOHN BELUSHI (1975-1979)
John Belushi brought the pleasures of brash slapstick to a show that otherwise tended towards hip and cerebral. He made it look easy to dominate the stage and make audiences laugh by brute force. But if you look at the performers influenced, including Chris Farley and his own brother Jim, you can see that it isn't that easy after all.

2. GILDA RADNER (1975-1979)
Gilda Radner won an Emmy for her performance on SNL in 1978 and carried many a sketch amongst the original "Not Ready for Prime Time Players." Her Barbara Walters and Roseanne Roseannadanna characters remain legendary.


1. BILL MURRAY (1977-1980)
Bill Murray's stature as the most beloved of all the SNL alumni was hard-won. He basically made it onto the show over Lorne Michaels' dead body, and he had a rough couple of weeks trying to win over an audience that was hell-bent on hating him because he'd replaced the show's first breakout star, Chevy Chase. But by the time Chase returned to guest host, it was Murray's show he came back to. Murray really proved his mettle when he himself hosted the only exciting episode of the notorious 1980-81 season. It looked then and still looks today as if Golden Age SNL is something Bill Murray carries around in his back pocket in case of emergency. ..