Category Archives: stage

RIP Karen Black

Earlier today I found out that actress Karen Black had passed away via a Tweet from my good friend Andy Burns, also editor-in-chief of Biff Bam Pop!. Another Tweeter’s response was that he had no words. That’s how I feel. We’ve lost one of the good ones, a legend of the genre. Karen Black died yesterday in Los Angeles from ampullary cancer at the age of 74.

When I said genre, I am of course talking about the horror genre. Karen Black probably most remembered film is one where she played a tour de force of four characters in Dan Curtis’ TV movie of the week Trilogy of Terror. It was at the aforementioned Andy Burns’ website, Biff Bam Pop!, that I talked about how that film still scares the crap outta me. You can read that here.

While it’s true she made her share of horror films, notably Trilogy, and Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses among others, it’s a fact she never stopped making movies. But of all the films Ms. Black has made, it is the movies of the 1970s that defne her. Hell, one could even say that Karen Black defined film in the 1970s. She changed the way women and sexuality were portrayed on the big screen.

Among her films are some of the best or at least most memorable of the decade, including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Great Gatsby, Capricorn One, In Praise of Older Women, Hitchcock’s last movie Family Plot, and Robert Altman’s Nashville. She also starred on stage and on television as well as film. She was a composer, screenwriter, producer, and author of children’s books.

I met her once a few years back, at a Chiller convention near the Meadowlands. We were about to leave and I saw this seemingly crazy woman screaming at people to get her something or other. The men surrounding her scrambled. I realized it was Karen Black. She was holding court in the lobby of the hotel.

I was either brave or stupid, so I approached her and told her she was great in Easy Rider and Nashville, and that I loved her in Trilogy, even though she scared me to death in it. She was kind, and soft spoken, and thanked me, even shook my hand. Moments later she was barking at underlings again, but to me, and other fans who approached her she was an angel.

That’s how I will remember Karen Black – a kind loving woman who adored her fans. Not the psychopath possessed by a Zuni fetish doll. And that’s probably for the best. We’ve lost one of Hollywood’s great actresses, and she will be missed.

Advertisements

James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Actor James Gandolfini died today in Italy from a massive heart attack, he was 51. The three time Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy winner was best known for playing bipolar modern gangster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He was also a producer, and a star of stage and screen, besides his television work.

I first became aware of the man when he played a very evil piece of work in Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance. His menacing presence made him perfect for the complex character of Tony Soprano in my opinion.

“The Sopranos” first entered my wheelhouse during its second season. I had written a still unpublished novel with hyper-violent overtones. Two beta-readers told me I needed a balance between the violence and the drama of everyday life, and both, separately suggested that I had to see “The Sopranos” so I could see how it’s supposed to be done. I got HBO, and was blown away. I quickly caught up, and was addicted to the show until its end.

Most of the reason the show was so successful was Gandolfini’s talent and presence. If we did not believe Gandolfini as Tony, the show falls apart. He was the show in many ways.

The man was perhaps the best lead in perhaps the best show ever made for TV.   It is so sad to lose such a talent so young. Who knows what might have been in his future. James Gandolfini will be missed.

Charles Durning 1923-2012

On the same day we lost Jack Klugman, Christmas Eve, we also lost Charles Durning, the king of the character actors. The multiple award-winning actor, featured in over a hundred films, was 89.

I first encountered Charles Durning as Detective Moretti in Dog Day Afternoon. He was the likable but straight arrow cop who negotiated with Al Pacino’s bank robber Sonny Wortzik. I love the film, a time capsule of the 1970s, that earned Durning a Best Supporting Actor nom from the Golden Globes. But it’s not his only film, before or since.

Durning’s resume also includes terrific roles in The Sting, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Muppet Movie, and Tootsie, among so many others. He was also a veteran of the Second World War, won a Tony for playing Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and had regular parts on the TV shows “Evening Shade,” “Family Guy,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” and “Rescue Me.”

Throughout his long career as an actor he was rarely not working, and was always playing memorable characters. We’ve lost another of the greats. He will be missed.

RIP Jack Klugman

Award winning star of stage, screen, and television, Jack Klugman, passed away Christmas Eve in his home, surrounded by his family, apparently of natural causes. Born in Philadelphia, he was 90.

Jack Klugman was probably most well known in the role of Oscar Madison, the sloppy sports writer from TV’s “The Odd Couple,” in which he played opposite Tony Randall as the fussy photographer, Felix Unger. The sitcom ran for five years on ABC from 1970 to 1975, based on the movie, and the Broadway play by Neil Simon. While never having spectacular ratings, it found fame in summer reruns and syndication. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, “The Odd Couple” was a fixture in my Friday night TV programming.

Later in the decade, Klugman moved to NBC with the serious police/doctor procedural, “Quincy M.E.” With a coroner as the protagonist, Klugman had said once, it was the best of both dramatic prime time worlds. In the sixties, he also appeared in four episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “A Game of Pool” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” two considered classics.

Before, and after his television days, Klugman was in more than a few films, most notably he was Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men. He also performed on stage throughout his career, even more than a few times in The Odd Couple. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974, and in 1989 lost one of his vocal cords to it, yet he continued to act, albeit in a much quieter huskier voice.

Jack Klugman was a terrific actor, and he will be missed.

RIP Larry Hagman

Larry Hagman passed away yesterday from complications of his ongoing battle with cancer. The actor and director was 81.

The son of actress Mary Martin, he began acting early. From “Edge of Night” to “I Dream of Jeannie” to “Dallas” to “Nip/Tuck” and back to “Dallas” again, he has had a fairly steady career for decades.

Throughout numerous television roles and even a few movie roles (I still have a warm spot in my heart for his appearance in the 1970s Blob sequel), he will be best remembered as the villainous oilman J.R. Ewing. The mystery of who shot him at the end of season three of “Dallas” was one of the most talked about television stunts in history.

While most memorable as J.R., I will have to agree with my friends Taryn and Ian in that I will always remember him as Major Tony Nelson on “I Dream of Jeannie.” Maybe it’s my age, or a wish to remember him as a good amusing guy, but I will miss ‘Master’ the most. An American television icon, Larry Hagman will be missed.

A slightly different and more detailed version of this post appeared earlier today here at the Biff Bam Pop! website.

RIP William Windom

This has been a bad weekend for show business. We lost director Tony Scott to an apparent suicide, singer/songwriter Scott McKenzie of “San Francisco” fame, and just today, Phyllis Diller. But for right now, I’m going to talk about Emmy Award winning actor William Windom.

Windom was perhaps one of the best character actors in television, film and stage. He was memorable in “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Star Trek,” “Night Gallery,” a recurring role on “Murder, She Wrote,” and multiple episodes of “Twilight Zone.” You might also remember him from the films To Kill a Mockingbird, Escape from the Planet of the Apes and The Detective among others.

But the reason I remember William Windom is a short-lived NBC TV series called “My World and Welcome to It.” My big sister Bobbie, for whom I am eternally grateful for teaching me to read at a very young age, insisted I watch the show when I was just a wee one. At the time, I might have thought she put me in front of the TV because it had cartoons in it, but in reality, she was exposing me to a great writer – James Thurber.

The show revolved around a writer and cartoonist based on Thurber and played by Windom, who won an Emmy for his work there. Most of the content of this unique half-hour sitcom was either based on Thurber’s stories, essays and cartoons, or on his own life. The one animated sequence that stands out in my mind is “The Unicorn in the Garden.” Years later I would find the tale in a book and discover one of my favorite authors.

Thank you, Bobbie, for introducing me to James Thurber, and thank you, William Windom, for bringing him to life. Windom passed away on Thursday from congestive heart failure. He was 88, and he will be missed.

Actor Ron Palillo Dead at 63

Actor Ron Palillo, best known for his portrayal of Arnold Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” was found dead early this morning by his longtime partner. He was 63, dead from an apparent heart attack.

While a star of film, television, stage and animation voicework for most of his career, he will forever be remembered as Arnold Horshack, a role he played from 1975-1979. For years he strove to rise above or erase the public’s memory of the role, even going so far as to have plastic surgery. He is the second of the ‘Sweathogs’ to pass away within a year.

He was a prolific stage actor on and off Broadway. Most recently Palillo was teaching acting in Florida where he lived and passed away.

The Pineland Players Present Bye Bye Birdie

The Pineland Players present “Bye Bye Birdie” – Book by Michael Stewart, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Lee Adams, Originally Produced by Edward Padula

It’s the late 1950s and teenagers from across the United States are going crazy for the handsome rock star, Conrad Birdie. Meanwhile, his manager, Albert Peterson, is going into debt and has staked his financial future on Conrad’s success. Albert’s secretary, Rosie, is increasingly frustrated with the time and money Albert is losing on his project. Disaster strikes when Conrad receives a draft notice to join the military. Thus, Albert attempts to stage a farewell party for Conrad in which he is to kiss one lucky fan on the Ed Sullivan Show before he leaves for the army. Kim MacAfee, from Sweet Apple, Ohio, is the lucky girl chosen to be kissed. But conflict arises when her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody, gets jealous, and Rosie becomes fed-up with Albert’s lack of commitment. Eventually, things turn out alright. Kim and Hugo resolve their problems while Albert agrees to leave managing, become an English teacher, and marry Rosie.

The Cast – Albert Peterson: Dave Ferris, Rose Alvarez: Arielle Thomas, Helen: Megan Bandomer, Ursula Merkle: Alanna Campbell, Kim MacAfee: Emily Chant, Mrs. Doris MacAfee: Jennifer Walker, Mr. Harry MacAfee: Michael Post, Randi MacAfee: Abby Chant, Mrs. Mae Peterson: Rachel Ulriksen, Conrad Birdie: Erich Schmal, Hugo Peabody: Dylan Paulson, Reporters: Stephanie Lottes, Tyrone Fuimaono, Mayor: James Hoffman, Mayor’s Wife: Karen Malone, Mrs. Merkle: Cindy Clark, Nancy: Bryce Turkheimer, Gloria Rasputin: Sammi Kristie, Penelope: Julianna Rankel, Mrs. Johnson: Michelle Bartasius, Maude F Charles: Abby Zahn, Alice: Rachel Benassutti, Margie: Mariah Schultz, Harvey Johnson: David Thomas, Sad Girls: Danielle Romanuski, Sarah Stearn

August 10, 11, 17, 18, 2012 at The Neeta School, 44 Neeta Trail, Medford Lakes, NJ

Bye Bye Birdie Tickets Now Available!!!

Show Dates: August 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30pm, August 18 at 2:00pm And don’t forget about our traditional “Meet the Cast” Ice Cream Social immediately following the August 18th matinee.

The Ticket request line is now open. You can request tickets or get more information by calling the Pineland Players information line at 609-286-3485. Leave a message with your name and phone number, your ticket date(s) and how many, and we will return your call to confirm your request.

Or you can use our on-line ticket request form. Click Here to go to the request form. Complete the form and click the “Submit” button at the bottom. We will confirm your request using the method you specified (phone or email) in the form. (you may also put in a ticket request at Saturday rehearsal; see anyone at the front desk)

BY REQUEST, WE NOW HAVE RESERVED SEATING, SO GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY FOR BEST SEATING AVAILABILITY.

Ticket prices – Adults $12, Children under 12 & Seniors, $10. Group rate, 10 or more tickets, $8. Ice Cream Social, $4.

Tickets will be held at the ticket desk on the night of your show, payable in cash or check payable to “Pineland Players.”

Marvin Hamlisch 1944-2012

Celebrated composer Marvin Hamlisch passed away yesterday after a brief but undisclosed illness. He was a star of stage and screen, and won multiple awards, among them – Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, a Tony and a Pulitzer. He was 68.

Hamlisch was perhaps one of the most famous American composers, having created scores for many movies, TV specials and Broadway shows. He was conductor of multiple orchestras across the nation.

His most famous works include A Chorus Line, The Goodbye Girl, The Sting, Take the Money and Run, The Spy Who Loved Me, Ice Castles, Sophie’s Choice, and The Way We Were.

Sherman Hemsley 1938-2012

Sherman Hemsley was found dead this morning, presumably of natural causes. The television, stage and film actor was 74.

Hemsley was best known for playing George Jefferson, Archie Bunker’s neighborly nemesis on “All in the Family” before moving on up to his decade long rein in the spin-off “The Jeffersons,” also by Norman Lear. Later Hemsley played Deacon Frye on “Amen.”

I’m a bit more out there when it comes to my favorite roles for Sherman Hemsley. I loved him as the Steel Condor in the Disney superhero satire Up, Up, and Away. I also dug him as the Toyman, along with “Jeffersons” co-star Isabel Sanford, on “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” He was also the star of my favorite story from the second incarnation of “The Twilight Zone” called “I of Newton.”

A bit of trivia about Mr. Hemsley is that he was a huge prog rock fan and expert. He loved bands of the early seventies like Yes, Genesis, and the more obscure Gentle Giant. Sherman Hemsley even collaborated with Jon Anderson on an unreleased album.