Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

110 years ago yesterday…

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Missed it by that much.

On June 25, 1906, Harry Kendall Thaw, professional heir and nutcase, walked up to noted architect Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden (during the opening night of something called “Mam’zelle Champagne”) and shot White in the head.

NYT coverage 1. NYT coverage 2.

When I call Thaw a “nutcase”. I mean that quite literally: historical evidence seems to show that he had a long history of mental problems, and that his enormously wealthy family spent a a great deal of money covering for him. Indeed, the Thaw trial is an early (though not the first) example of the interaction between great wealth and criminal justice.

It is also claimed that Thaw’s family spent a lot of money smearing White. Specifically, Thaw’s supposed motivation for the murder was that White had “ruined” Evelyn Nesbit when she was 16. Ms. Nesbit later went on to become Thaw’s wife: she supposedly told Thaw all about her affair with White, which drove Thaw crazier than he allegedly already was…

The end result was that Thaw went through two trials. The jury hung in the first one, and found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the second one. Thaw was sent to the Matteawan asylum for several years. In 1913, he walked out of the asylum and escaped into Quebec. He was eventually extradited back to the US, where he received a new sanity hearing, was found “not guilty and no longer insane”, and was released. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and confined again for beating a 19 year old boy. He was released in 1924 and died in 1947. Thaw obit from the NYT.

Evelyn Nesbit died in “relative obscurity” in 1967. NYT obit.

I actually had hopes and plans for doing a much longer and better post on this, but they didn’t pan out. I’ve had trouble laying my hands on the source material I wanted to find. (And I still haven’t been able to find out what gun Thaw used, alas.)

So I’m going to be a little lazy and point to:

The website for the American Experience documentary “Murder of the Century”. It does not have the film available for streaming, but it does have the transcript and background material.

The Thaw trials from Douglas Linder’s “Famous Trials” website. This is actually a website that I keep forgetting about, even though it has been around since 1995, so I’m glad to be able to bookmark it here. Professor Linder has spent the past 21 years documenting everything from the trial of Socrates through Thomas More, Aaron Burr, our old pal Big Bill Haywood, and all the way up to George Zimmerman. This isn’t the be-all end-all website for most of these trials, but it serves as a good jumping-off point if you want to do more research.

(If those NYT links don’t work for you, would you please send an email or leave a comment? I think they should work, but I’m not 100% sure.)

Musical interlude.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Apropos of nothing in particular, a musical interlude to start your day:

Obit watch: June 19, 2016.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Anton Yelchin, Chekov in the new Star Trek movies. LAT. A/V Club. He was only 27.

Lois Duncan. YA author, perhaps most famous for I Know What You Did Last Summer. A/V Club.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I like linking to A/V Club obits is that they’re very good at putting people’s lives in context – explaining who this person was, and why they mattered – without snark or meanness. They’re also quicker and better about acknowledging popular culture figures than, say, the NYT.

This obit for Ron Lester is a good example of what I’m talking about. Mr. Lester was Billy Bob in “Varsity Blues” and had roles on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Popular”.

…for a time, he became the go-to actor for casting directors looking to cast large, funny young men.

But his weight was killing him, so he had gastric bypass surgery. The problem was, after he lost a whole bunch of weight, he was no longer distinctive as a large funny guy, and was just one of many interchangeable normal sized funny guys in Hollywood.

The A/V Club links to this Grantland profile of Mr. Lester from 2014, which I commend to your attention. Mr. Lester was 45.

Obit watch: June 8, 2016.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The LAT is reporting the death of actress Theresa Saldana.

She was in “Raging Bull” (which, oddly enough, I have never gotten around to watching) and the 90’s TV series “The Commish”.

It makes me feel weird to say this, but: she was perhaps best known as the victim of a vicious attack by a deranged stalker in 1982. She was stabbed 10 times before a passerby pulled the guy off her. I don’t want to say this was the first celebrity stalking attack, because I’m sure someone will prove me wrong: but it was one of the earliest I can remember, and one of the first to draw public attention. (Ms. Saldana played herself in “Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story”, the movie based on her case.)

[Arthur R.] Jackson [the deranged stalker – DB] was convicted of attempted murder and held in California state prison until being released in 1996 and deported to the U.K., where he was committed in 1997 to a psychiatric institution after pleading guilty to killing a man 30 years earlier. Jackson died in 2004.

Obit watch: May 25, 2016.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Beth Howland passed away December 31st of last year, but her death was not announced until yesterday, in keeping with the wishes of her family.

She played Amy in the original Broadway production of Sondheim’s “Company”, and had a slew of other roles. Ms. Howland was perhaps most famous as Vera on “Alice”.

Unlike many actors, Ms. Howland had never worked as a waitress. “But I just kept sitting around coffee shops and watching how it’s done, and now I can carry four dinners,” she told Knight Newspapers.

I kind of wonder if she was typecast after “Alice”: the obit says she worked “sporadically”.

She had small guest roles on “Eight Is Enough,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “The Tick.”

Also:

She and the actress Jennifer Warren were the executive producers of the documentary “You Don’t Have to Die,” about a 6-year-old boy’s successful battle against cancer. It won an Academy Award in 1989 for best short-subject documentary.

(Wouldn’t “After Alice” be a great idea for a new TV series? Linda Lavin is still alive: she could have taken over the diner from Mel. Polly Holliday is still alive, too: she could be working the counter, and then you cast someone to play Vera’s daughter, who works as a waitress…Hollywood types, you know where to reach me.)

The AV Club is reporting the passing of Burt Kwouk, who sounds like a very cool and interesting guy. He was in three Bond films, but is perhaps best known as Cato in the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies. (Edited to add: NYT obit.)

“They were always a lot of fun because after a while I got to know Cato quite well and I liked Cato because he never argued with me and he never borrowed money from me. I liked playing Cato quite a lot,” he said of the role in a 2011 interview with the BBC.

Not exactly obits, but worth noting in my opnion: both Bubba Smith and Dave Mirra have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Obit watch and playing catch up: May 21, 2016.

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Alan Young.

Yesterday was kind of a busy day. There were multiple things that I intended to make note of, but I got stuck into something I can’t discuss right now, and…well….anyway:

Morley Safer, for the historical record.

San Francisco police chief “resigns” “at the request of Mayor Ed Lee”. I think we can call this one a “firing”.

The precipitating incident here seems to have been the SFPD shooting of a woman in a possibly stolen vehicle: she fled from the officers and crashed into the back of a truck.

The car crashed into a utility truck a short distance away. Although no weapon was found on the woman and the car was wedged under the truck, a police sergeant fired a single shot, killing her, police said.

It sounds at first like there was a bit of a rush to judgement on this: the shooting took place Thursday morning, and Suhr was canned Thursday afternoon. But as the linked SFGate article notes, this wasn’t the first problem under Suhr’s administration: there had been two previous controversial shootings, plus a scandal over “racist and homophobic text messages”.

Great and good friend of the blog and occasional guest poster RoadRich sent a series of thoughtful comments yesterday on the Suhr firing: I’m hoping he’ll let me post those as a guest post, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him yesterday because of [redacted] and he’s busy today.

In other California news, remember Maywood? How could you forget the nearly broke municipality of Maywood, “the second-smallest city in Los Angeles County”?

But that didn’t stop municipal leaders from granting themselves, the city treasurer and the city clerk $250 monthly mileage stipends.
If Maywood used the Internal Revenue Service’s suggested reimbursement rate for business travel of 54 cents a mile, city officials would need to drive 463 miles a month to reach the $250 mark.

More:

Councilman Ricardo Villarreal said he didn’t think twice about voting in favor of the monthly stipends because he thought the roughly $550 a month they get for serving as council members didn’t cover other costs like meals with other officials and mileage.

I wonder if the councilman and other officials are eating at Tacos Los Desvelados.

Turning our attention to Austin:

Albert “Matt” Arevalo was fired in September after being charged with DWI last May. Arevalo was stopped after driving 91 mph in a 55 mph zone, and his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit, police said.

Mr. Arevalo was an officer with the Austin Police Department. Given that knowledge, would you care to guess what happened next? Yes: he got his job back!

The arbitrator mandated that Arevalo should only serve a 180-day suspension and receive back pay for any days over that period, said Austin police union president Ken Casaday in a letter members of the Austin Police Association.

The Bunk is strictly a Clinton motherf—er.

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Oh, Wendell.

Pierce, an avowed Hillary Clinton supporter, allegedly began arguing with a Bernie Sanders supporter and her boyfriend at The Lobby, the hotel’s bar, around 3:30 a.m., according to TMZ. The site goes on to report the conversation became heated, and Pierce “became enraged, pushed the boyfriend and then went after his girlfriend … grabbing her hair and smacking her in the head.”

He was charged with “simple battery” and released on bond.

(Subject line explained, for non “Wire” fans.)

Obit watch: May 15, 2016.

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Katherine Dunn followups: A/V Club. NYT.

Harlan Ellison, the science fiction author and screenwriter, hailed it as “transformative.”

Julius La Rosa, who was a noted singer of the 1950s, but is perhaps most famous for being fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey.

On Oct. 19, 1953 — 23 months after Mr. La Rosa’s debut — Mr. Godfrey retaliated in a morning segment heard only on the radio. Mr. La Rosa had just finished singing “Manhattan” when Mr. Godfrey delivered the sentence in his solemn foghorn voice.
“That was Julie’s swan song,” he said.

The dismissal stunned Mr. La Rosa and the Godfrey audiences, whose reaction was largely negative. Most media critics also chastised Mr. Godfrey, whose avuncular image began to crumble.

Obit watch: May 12, 2016.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Jok Church, creator of the “You Can With Beakman & Jax” comic and the “Beakman’s World” television show.

I know a lot of people who loved “Beakman’s World” and anybody who teaches science to children is doing the lords work, as far as I’m concerned. Thing I didn’t know: Church was also Christo’s webmaster.

Mark Lane, noted JFK assassination conspiracy theorist.

Obit watch: May 10, 2016.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

I’ve been meaning to note this for the past few days.

Last Friday, the NYT ran an obituary for Donald W. Duncan. Mr. Duncan was a former member of the Special Forces in Vietnam: he became disillusioned after his return to the United States, and became a fairly prominent anti-war activist:

In an America torn by protests against the war in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Duncan was often in the news, although not as prominently as the pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, the Roman Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan or the actress Jane Fonda, who was photographed laughing and applauding on an antiaircraft gun in Hanoi. (Daniel Berrigan died on April 30.)
But in 1966, well before the Tet offensive and the My Lai massacre stirred national discontent, Mr. Duncan was one of the first returning veterans to portray the war as a moral quagmire that had little to do with fighting the spread of Communism, as American leaders were portraying it.
Sergeant Duncan, who went to war convinced it was an anti-Communist crusade, ended his Special Forces duty a changed man. A 10-year veteran, he rejected an offer of an officer’s commission and left the Army. Back home, he became a fierce critic of the war, writing articles and a memoir and speaking at rallies across the country with the singer Joan Baez, the writer Norman Mailer and the comedian Dick Gregory.

But that’s not why I wanted to note Mr. Duncan’s passing. Remember I said the NYT ran the obit last Friday?

Mr. Duncan passed away on March 25, 2009. Yes, seven years ago. I can’t think of a longer gap between a death and an obit in the paper of record. Randall Dale Adams was about nine months, and I think he was the previous record holder.

Also, and more recent: William Schallert. There’s a photo and caption in that obit that make me smile: you’ll know it when you see it.

Obit watch: April 14, 2016.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Two! Two! Two themes in one!

Theme 1: people who had interesting lives and careers.

Anne Jackson, noted actress.

Ms. Jackson, who had endured a difficult life growing up in Brooklyn, carved out an impressive stage career of her own. Critics hailed her range and the subtlety of her characterizations — including all the women, from a middle-aged matron to a grandmother, in David V. Robison’s “Promenade, All!” (1972) — and a housewife verging on hysteria in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absent Friends” (1977).

She was also married to Eli Wallach from 1948 until he died in 2014. And they were good together:

They both won Obie Awards for their work in Mr. Schisgal’s 1963 Off Broadway double bill, “The Typists” and “The Tiger.” They also starred in his hit 1964 Broadway comedy, “Luv,” directed by Mike Nichols, which ran 901 performances and won three Tony Awards, and in another pair of Schisgal one-acts, “Twice Around the Park,” on Broadway in 1982.

Arthur Anderson. He was perhaps most famous as the voice of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. But he did a lot of other stuff, including working with Orson Welles:

After acting in “The Mercury Theater on the Air,” Mr. Anderson was cast in 1937 as Lucius, the herald to the 22-year-old Welles’s Brutus, in a Broadway production of “Julius Caesar” set in Fascist Italy. Arthur sang, accompanying himself on a ukulele camouflaged as a lute.
His most memorable moment during the show occurred offstage. After heeding an order to stop hurling light bulbs at a brick wall, he decided to light matches to test the melting point of the sprinkler heads. Besides setting off a fire alarm, he triggered a deluge just as Brutus ascended the pulpit above the body of Caesar on the stage below.

Remember, folks, the sprinkler is not a toy, nor is it a load-bearing device.

Theme 2: the death penalty.

Jack H. Smith passed away a few days ago.

Mr. Smith had convictions for robbery-assault and theft in 1955 and another robbery-assault conviction in 1959 that earned him a life prison term. He also had a prison escape attempt in 1963.
He was paroled from his life sentence on Jan. 8, 1977, after serving 17 years. One day short of a year later, on Jan. 7, 1978, Mr. Smith and an accomplice were arrested in the killing of Roy A. Deputter, who was shot to death while trying to stop a holdup at a Houston convenience store known as Corky’s Corner.

Mr. Smith’s accomplice testified against him and was sentenced to life. Mr. Smith was sentenced to death:

Mr. Smith, a former welder who completed only six years of school, arrived on death row on Oct. 9, 1978, and remained there until his death.

Joe Freeman Britt also passed away a few days ago. He was a prosecutor in North Carolina:

As the district attorney for Robeson and Scotland Counties from 1974 to 1988, Mr. Britt oversaw cases that led to more than 40 death sentences. Only two of the defendants were executed — appeals court rulings led to many altered sentences, and some suspects were later exonerated [Emphasis added: -DB] — but his courtroom record ranked him at one point among the country’s most prolific advocates for capital punishment.

After his time as a prosecutor, he became a judge:

Mr. Britt’s candidacy for the court seat was not without controversy. His opponent, a Native American, died in what the authorities concluded was a domestic dispute. The death essentially guaranteed a victory for Mr. Britt, and it prompted a period of unease and suspicion. Investigators, however, never accused Mr. Britt or his supporters of wrongdoing.

Random notes: April 11, 2016.

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Statesman writer subscribes to LootCrate so he can get a box of pop-culture crap delivered to him every month.
Statesman writer discovers that he really doesn’t like getting a box of pop-culture crap delivered to him every month.
Stateman writer decides, not just to quietly cancel his LootCrate subscription and move on with his life, but to publish a “breakup letter” in his newspaper.

Editors. Where are the editors?

Obit watch: Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, chief medical examiner of New York City from 1989 to 2013.

In 2001, when two jetliners commandeered by terrorists struck the World Trade Center, Dr. Hirsch and six aides rushed downtown to establish a temporary morgue.
When the North Tower collapsed, two aides were severely injured. Dr. Hirsch, thrown to the ground, broke all of his ribs. His cuts sutured by a medical team, he returned to the examiner’s squat brick headquarters at First Avenue and 30th Street, coated in a ghostlike gray soot.

Begun, the “Hamilton” backlash has.

Quote of the day:

“I can recognize a nipple from 600 yards in the background behind a leaf at this point.”