Good grief! The Celebrity Death Meter has been going into overtime this week. It's clicked over twice! In fact, in order to keep it down to just twice, I had to downgrade two fresh cadavers, Stan Daniels and Johnny Hart, from "Celebrities" to "Persons of Considerably-Less Interest." Of course, Stan Daniels was merely a brilliant TV comedy writer and song writer, and as I've so often pointed out, in Hollywood, writers rank somewhere below grips. Oh sure, he and his partner Ed Weinberger wrote many, many episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and he co-created Phyllis and Taxi, and he wrote The Butler Song, which is one of the funniest comedy songs ever, but still, if you'd seen him and his family in line at Disneyland, would you even have recognized him, let alone made his day miserable by pointing and squealing, demanding autographs, and then following him all over the park, announcing his presence to everyone you passed, while tipping off the paparazzi to where he was over your cell phone? Then he wasn't really a celebrity!
Same problem with Johnny Hart. Oh most everyone knows his comic strips, The Wizard of Id and BC, both period pieces, the latter set back during my girlhood, so I can testify as to how unrealistic it is. But again, You could have stood in line in front of him for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye for two hours and never have known he was anything more than just a very funny old man. Besides, as Christianity's increasingly intrusive presence in his comic strips over the last two decades attested, the man was a devout Christian, so he's not really dead at all, just Risen to Glory, so he doesn't count either.
So who else checked out this week? Well, at the lowest end of the scale was AJ Carothers. As a movie writer, he wouldn't really rate mention either, but among his other discredits, he wrote a bloated musical nap-on-celluloid called The Happiest Millionaire, better known as The Movie That Killed Walt Disney. I sat through that endless snoozefest in a theater back when it escaped in 1967, and I barely lived through it myself. Good God, what a boring movie! AJ's demise this week at 75 may strike those who paid money to see that film as Justice Delayed.
The last of our writers to catch the Last Train to Darksville this week was 84 year old Kurt Vonnegut Jr., which I'm sure was heartbreaking news to dear old Kurt Vonnegut Sr., the real talent in the family. I suppose that we can consider Kurt an actual celebrity, because let's face it, he would get recognized at Disneyland, although only by the smart people, and it's hard to imagine him even going there, as the amusement parks in his mind were so much more amazing. But then, Kurt didn't seem to find anything hard to imagine. Kurt was a genuine genius, visionary, and moralist, and he wrote some of the greatest novels I have ever had summaries of read to me. And although the excruciatingly terrible movie Slapstick of Another Kind was based on a novel of his, he can't really be blamed for it.
Two fine actors of a dusky hue were lost this week. First Calvin Lockhart departed at age 72. This oft-married man was a brilliant actor, and more importantly, he was absolutely gorgeous! He gave many fine performances in many excellent movies, but I prefer to remember him in two real turkeys. One was a particularly silly werewolf movie called The Beast Must Die!, in which Calvin co-starred with my darling Peter Cushing. (I have always adored Peter!) This ridiculous howler is a mystery, a whobitit, as you have to figure out which of the characters is the werewolf who is eating the other characters, a sort of Agatha Christie-type Lycanthrope story, Ten Little Werewolves.
As if that wasn't bad enough, he was in one of the most notoriously dreadful movies of all-time, the justly celebrated ghastly waste of film in which Raquel Welch is typecast as a man, Myra Breckenridge, based on the wonderful Gore Vidal novel. (Gore has never seen the movie. I am less lucky.) Calvin plays, with a credibility far beyond anything else in this utterly absurd monstrosity, the most flaming fruitcake stereotyped homosexual ever committed to film. After watching his performance, even he must have been shocked to realize he wasn't really gay. It was Mae West's next-to-last movie. It would have been her last, but she noticed that there are six or seven minutes in the picture that are merely bad. Realizing that she could still sink lower, she set her sights on the deepest spot at the bottom of the barrel, and made Sextette.
Also joining the ex-parrots in the Choir Invisible this week is the magnificent Roscoe Lee Browne, at the tender age of 81. Now you probably know quite well who this amazing actor is. Let's just say that, with his wonderful voice, if he was the speaking clock, I'd always be checking the time. Little Dougie testifies that he passed the celebrity test, as Dougie once saw Little Roscoe from the window of a bus, standing on a sidewalk in Hollywood, and Dougie says that half of the bus passengers were pointing at him and gawking. Now that's a star!
In Hawaii this week, that little nappy-headed Don Ho passed away at 76. His wine has gone flat. All the tiny bubbles are gone. My old friend, the late Fred Asparagus (Yes, that was really his name) used to say of Ho, "He was from the Big Island --- Asia." Don was a real entertainer, and now there's no reason to go to Hawaii at all any more, unless you're desperate to get lei-ed. (If you do go, watchout for that nasty Smoke Monster.)
(Speaking of "Nappy-headed Hos", I'd like to address a remark or two to the Rutger's Ladies Basketball Team. Ladies, you said this week that Don Imus's ghastly and - worst sin of all - unfunny snipe made you feel degraded, and it hurt you and hurt your self-esteem. Really? A lousy joke from a 300 year old wannabe-cowboy/living mummy, desperate to sound "Hip" (And black), that you would never even have heard about if the media hadn't rubbed your nose in it day after day, hurt your self-esteem? How? Did you decide that you agreed with him? Here's a truth darlings: the only person who can hurt your self-esteem is YOU! So a jerk on the radio said something nasty. So what? IGNORE HIM! Words only have the power you give them. Good grief, if my self-esteem suffered everytime someone in the media said something mean about me, I would have committed suicide after reading just the reviews for The Revenge of Cleopatra alone. I see you've voted to forgive him. Is forgiveness a democracy? What if it wasn't unanimous? How many abstained? Get a clue ladies. Don't forgive him. Ignore him. Stop granting him power over you. And stop allowing yourselves to be used as the tools of media whores, the new Thought Police, and other enemies of Free Speech. Empower yourselves.)
So now I come to the Big News today: the death of the first James Bond, 89 year old Barry Nelson, who created the role of CIA agent Jimmy Bond 007, in the Climax TV production of Casino Royale back in 1954, opposite that dreamboat sex god Peter Lorre (I still adore those Peters!) as Le Chiffre. It was several years later that Sir Sean Connery distorted the role by making him British, and sexy, (Not an easy combination to bring off.) in the movie Dr. No. But Barry's Bond (Not to be confused with Berry Bonds), sexy and glum as he was described, was the definitive Jimmy Bond.
Now it's true that, as Jimmy Bond, Barry Nelson was devoid of any trace of sex appeal; but that must be expected. After all, he was playing opposite Peter Lorre, one of the sexiest men who ever lived, and I know of what I speak, as I had a night of incredible carnal passion with him under a full moon, atop mighty Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, as I mentioned in my earlier posting, Gratitude Imparting Day. What a man! How could poor little Barry Nelson be expected to compete with him?
Nelson's lasting sex lack-of-appeal wasn't helped by his turn as the house dick at the spooky old Overlook Hotel in The Shining, nor by the recent Sex God Performance of Daniel Craig in the big budget remake of Nelson's TV drama, although the Le Chiffre in that picture was still no Peter Lorre.
But however lame one may have found Barry Nelson's 007, you have to admit, he was still a better James Bond than Roger Moore, and Moore still lives! Truly there is no such thing as justice!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Goodbye, Mister Bond!
And One Less Ho!