Friday, January 25, 2019

Baby, If You've Ever Wondered....

Alexander Gordon Jump was born, ironically, in Dayton, Ohio, on April 1, 1932.  While growing up in the Midwest, he developed an interest in communications, eventually earning a degree in journalism from Kansas State University.  After graduation, he took a series of on-air jobs in both radio and television (really), which would undoubtedly lay the groundwork for the role he would be most famously associated with, that of Arthur Carlson, aka "The Big Guy," on WKRP in Cincinnati.

In the early 1960s, Jump decided to move to Los Angeles and take up acting full time.  It didn't take him long to pick up roles on series such as The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, and Green Acres.  He was also the pitchman for Shakey's Pizza Parlor.  Watch one of his commercials here.

Jump was a practicing Mormon, and he loaned his acting talents to a series of religious-themed productions in the 1960s, including a marriage-advice film titled What About Thad?  Watch it in its entirety here.  You won't be disappointed.

By 1978, he had established himself as a reliable character actor in Hollywood.  Given his background in both radio and TV, he was probably pre-destined to join WKRP that year.  Watch the intro here.  I'm convinced that's his hand changing the radio dial.

The series only lasted for four seasons, as someone at CBS felt that renewing Alice for a 9th season was a smarter move.  Although it's time on the air was brief, WKRP produced a number of memorable episodes, none more so than the infamous "Turkeys Away" Thanksgiving episode, which, ironically aired on Halloween that year!  Watch series creator Hugh Wilson discuss the real-world origins of that episode in this interview.

After cancellation, Jump continued to find work on television.  His most notable (and creepy) guest-starring role was on Diff'rent Strokes, in a story that put the phrase "a very special episode" in all of our vocabularies.  Jump played Mr. Horton, owner of Horton's Bicycle Shop, who had evil intentions on series regulars Arnold (Gary Coleman) and his best pal Dudley (Shavar Ross).  Watch it in its entirety here.

Then in 1989, Jump assumed his second-most-famous role, that of the Maytag Repairman, replacing long-term veteran Jesse White.  Watch one of Jump's commercials here.

Two years later, a funny thing happened.  WKRP's creator Hugh Wilson decided to bring the series back to television with all-new, original episodes, buoyed by the success of other first-run syndication series, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Baywatch.  Jump returned to his role of Arthur Carlson and was joined by fellow WKRP cast members Frank Bonner and Richard Sanders.  Watch the updated intro here. The revised version lacked the chemistry of the original however, and was canceled after just two seasons.  It did however launch the careers of French Stewart, Mykelti Williamson and Tawny Kitaen, a fact we can all most certainly be happy about.

Jump was a private person, and although he stayed in touch with the original cast members, he never told them that his health was in decline.  Series star Gary Sandy, aka Andy Travis, suspected something was wrong however, after Jump left an event early claiming he was tired.  Listen to the interview here.  What Jump hadn't told them was that he suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, which ultimately took his life on September 22, 2003.  He was just 71 years old.  Jump was interred at El Toro Memorial Park in Orange County, California.

The inscription on his marker states "Loved and respected by all who knew him" and "God takes our loved ones from our homes, but never from our hearts."  There is also a memorial bench at his grave.

There is an inscription on the back:

RIP Big Guy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Judy Garland: The Woman Who Had Two Graves!

Sometimes, one grave just isn't enough.  In 2018, this blog chronicled the two graves of actor Anton Yelchin.  Taking a page from that book, the family of Hollywood royalty, Judy Garland, decided that her final resting place wasn't so final after all, and flew her remains 3,000 miles cross country.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm (really) on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  She began her career in vaudeville with her two older sisters and quickly caught the eye of MGM Studios in Hollywood.  She'd appear in more than 45 films throughout her career, and of course, is best known for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.  Watch the original 1939 trailer here.

Garland in 1969 shortly before her death.
By the 1960s, Garland had appeared on stage around the world, released albums, and even had her own variety series on CBS, appropriately titled The Judy Garland Show.  Watch a full-length episode here.

Garland also had no less than five husbands, including nightclub manager Mickey Deans, who she married in March 1969.  Just three months later, on June 22, he'd find her body on the floor of their rented home in London, dead at age 47.  NBC News offered this report on her passing.

Coroner Gavin Thurston attributed her death to "an incautious self-overdosage of barbituates."   Later at her funeral, Garland's Oz co-star Ray Bolger surmised that "she just plain wore out."  Yeah, drugs will do that to you.

Following a funeral in New York City that drew more than 20,000 fans, Deans had her interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.  She was placed in a mausoleum holding thousands of other remains, in a crypt belying her star status.  The fact that I had such easy access speaks volumes.

But 48 years after her passing, Garland's children, including Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joe Luft decided it was time for an upgrade.  The family issued a statement (!) declaring that they had decided to "bring her home" to Hollywood.  I guess there's no place like home after all.  Like Anton Yelchin, she was reburied at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, given a place of honor in the Judy Garland Pavilion.

Rest in peace Judy, finally.