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.

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