Saturday, February 29, 2020

Stow it, Dingy!

Victor Tayback was born in Brooklyn on January 6, 1930.  He was the son of Syrian immigrants who came to America in the 1920s.  By the time he was a teenager, the family decided to move west and eventually settled in Burbank, California, where he completed high school.

After school, Tayback went right into acting.  His first credited role was the 1958 spiritual film The Power of the Resurrection, as Simon the Canaanite.  You can the watch the film in its entirety here.

In 1962, Tayback married his wife Sheila.  The couple welcomed their only child, son Christopher Tayback, shortly thereafter.

Throughout the 1960s, Tayback made several guest appearances on many popular shows of the time, including Get Smart, Bonanza and Rawhide.  One of his more famous guest roles during this period was in the original Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action."  Watch Tayback chew up the scenery in this clip.

He'd continue to take roles in films, including that of diner owner Mel in the 1974 Martin Scorcese film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, the story of a battered wife who takes her son cross country to get away from her abusive husband.  Watch the trailer here.

Two years later, CBS decided to take the controversial film and turn it into a weekly series.  While maintaining the central plot of a mother and her son moving cross country, the series would be much more lighthearted than the parent film had been.  Simply dubbed Alice and starring Linda Lavin, the sit-com depicted a widow and her son leaving New Jersey following the untimely death of her loving husband.

While many of the key roles from the film would be recast for the series, Tayback returned as Mel Sharples, owner of Mel's Diner in Phoenix, Arizona.  The series was a ratings success and ran for ten seasons on the network.  Tayback won two Golden Globe Awards during its run.  Here's a clip from the final episode.

When the series concluded in 1985, Tayback continued acting on television, appearing on such series as T.J. Hooker, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.  He also did occasional film work, including the 1989 Patrick Dempsey film, Loverboy.

On May 25, 1990, Tayback passed away following a heart attack.  He was only 60 years old.  He was interred at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, where he was joined by Sheila in 2001.

Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Sheltering Hills Section
Plot #3813

Vic's plot can be very difficult to find.  One tip: It's very close to the road, so don't go too far down the hill before you look for it or you'll walk right by it.

Stow it, Mel!

  • Butter!  Tayback starred in a 1976 commercial for Parkay Margarine.  Watch it here.

  • Alice attempted a spin-off series in the form of Flo, which featured Polly Holliday reprising her role.  It wasn't as successful, and was dropped after one season.  Catch the intro here, sung by Hoyt Axton no less.

  • In one of the oddest and most ill-conceived TV cross-overs ever, actors Sorrell Booke and Sonny Shroyer from the CBS series The Dukes of Hazzard appeared as their characters Boss Hogg and Enos Strate in the 1983 Alice episode "Mel Gets Hogg-Tied."  Here's a commercial for the episode (at the 2:00 mark) and here's a clip.

  • In 1985, Tayback did a series of commercials for Heinz 57.  Here's one of them.

  • What's the funniest joke you ever heard?  Tayback shares his in this 1984 TV special.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Odd and Amusing Graves in Ohio's Maplewood Cemetery

Six Feet Under Hollywood takes another detour from the famous this week, offering some interesting and unique graves discovered on a recent visit to Ohio.  Our trip takes us to the historic Maplewood Cemetery in New Albany, which was first established back in 1810. 

Maplewood has a rich history, with a large section devoted to Ohio's Civil War dead.  Some of these markers are quite touching, and offer an interesting glimpse into the culture of the time.

More recent internments often offer a sense of humor, a zest for life, and a love of all things Ohio. 

We hope you enjoy.

Does God have cable?

Dedicated to a small child who died accidentally.

Just Dew it.

Shall not be infringed.

The world is not enough.

He loved his music, Part 1.

Wrapped in a terrible towel.

The Bridges of Brown County.

He loved his music, Part 2.

Homeward bound.

Speed demon.

One-track mind.


Saturday, February 1, 2020


Hugh Marston Hefner was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926.  He grew up in a conservative, midwestern family, and his mother encouraged him to become a missionary.  Write your own joke.

After high school, Hefner joined the Army and served as a writer for a military newspaper, his first taste of journalism.  He later continued his education at the University of Illinois.  Although he majored in psychology, he minored in creative writing and art, studies that would undoubtedly help him later in life.

By 1952, Hefner was working at Esquire, but he quit when he was refused a $5 raise.  The following year, he took out a mortgage loan of $600 and raised $8,000 from 45 investors to go into business for himself, launching the first magazine for men, Playboy.

He published the first issue in December 1953.  It famously featured Marilyn Monroe from a nude calendar shoot she had done four years earlier.  By 1953, her star had risen considerably, and the issue sold more than 50,000 copies, putting Playboy on the map.

Once the magazine took off, Hefner promoted it through a number of related enterprises, especially television.  The 1960s and 70s featured two series hosted by Hefner himself, Playboy's Penthouse and Playboy After Dark.  Click on the titles to see a complete episode of each series.

In the 60s he also created the first "private-key" club in his hometown of Chicago, with other locations soon to follow.  In 1975, he moved his operation west, headquartering at the now-famous Playboy mansion.

By the 1980s, the hard lifestyle caught up with Hefner, and he suffered a minor stroke at age 59.  He re-evaluated his life, and decided to turn control of his empire over to daughter Christie in 1988.

The following year, he married his second wife and former Playmate of the Year, Kimberly Conrad.  The marriage produced two sons, but ultimately ended in 2010.  Apparently they remained friends, judging by this tongue-in-cheek interview she gave in 2011.

Following his divorce (and most say long before it), Hefner famously dated a number of serious "number one" girlfriends, including Holly Madison, who helped Hefner create the very successful reality series The Girls Next Door.  While Hefner claimed he would never marry again, what he really meant was that he would never marry her.  Instead, he married another playmate, Crystal Harris, aka The Runaway Bride, in 2012.  The couple remained married through Hefner's final years, before he ultimately passed on September 27, 2017, a victim of e. coli.  The more you know.

Years earlier, Hefner purchased the burial crypt next to his first cover girl Marilyn Monroe, at Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Village.

In this shot of Marilyn Monroe's crypt, taken in 2016, Hefner's future crypt appears
behind the standing bouquet.

Rest in peace, Hef.

  • Despite featuring her in Playboy's premiere issue and buying the burial crypt next to her, Hefner never actually met Marilyn Monroe.

  • One of the 45 investors was Hefner's mother Grace.  Reportedly she did so not believing in the project, but because "she believed in her son."

  • Following publication of the June 1963 issue, which featured Jayne Mansfield, Hefner was arrested for promoting obscene literature, as the pictorial included one photo with a very lucky man.  The case went to trial, but ultimately resulted in a hung jury.  No, that's not a pun.

  •  In 1993, Hefner voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Krusty Gets Kancelled."  Watch a clip here.

  •  ABC's Good Morning America reported on Hef's passing in this segment.

  •  This author's first letter to the editor was published in the June 1998 issue.