Friday, August 28, 2020

Would You Believe.....Don Adams

Don Adams was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City on April 13, 1923.  His parents were of different faiths, opting to raise one son, Don, in the Catholic faith of his father, while raising their other son, Richard, in the Jewish faith of his mother. 

Don was also raised with a love of country.  During World War 2, he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marines.  He was assigned to the Pacific Theatre of Operations, where he participated in the historic Battle of Guadalcanal.  His military service would be short lived however, as he contracted blackwater fever, a complication of malaria.  He spent more than a year recovering at a hospital in New Zealand.

After he left the service, Don married singer Adelaide Adams and began his own career in comedy.  In an unusual twist, he took her last name as his own, officially becoming Don Adams.  Although the marriage would produce four daughters, the couple eventually divorced.  Don would retain the name however, as his career had already been established.

Don's first breaks in television came via his boyhood friend Bill Dana, who had established himself as a comedic writer.  Don made eleven appearances on The Steve Allen Show in the late 1950s, where Dana was part of the writing team.  In 1963, Dana was given a self-titled sit-com on NBC and he immediately cast Don in the series.  You can watch the series intro here.  It only lasted for two seasons, freeing Don up for a much more important role

Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.
In 1965, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry
were asked to create a comedic take on the spy genre that had become very popular during the 1960s.  At the theatre, audiences paid good money to see the latest James Bond adventure, while watching series such as The Man From UNCLE and The Avengers at home.  The result of their efforts was a sit-com
called Get Smart.  Watch the iconic series intro here.

The series premiered in 1965 and was an overnight success.  It made household names of its three leads, Don, Barbara Feldon and Ed Platt.  The series was recognized with multiple Emmy Award nominations, and Don personally took home four for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for his role of Agent 86.  He also branched out into directing, helming 13 of the series' 138 episodes.  Although it was canceled by NBC in 1969 (the same year they canceled Star Trek!), it was picked up by CBS for one final season.

After the series was canceled, Don, like many others in the business, found himself typecast.  Television roles were hard to come by, so he did a lot of commercial work (see the Trivia section below).  He also tried his hand at hosting, with the short-lived series Don Adams' Screen Test.  You can watch a clip from that series here.  It might give you some insight into the inscription you'll later see on his headstone.

Don found the most success doing voice-over work however, and he was a frequent contributor to Saturday morning TV.  He was the title character on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, an episode of which you can see here.  He also voiced himself on an episode of Scooby Doo.  While I can't find the episode itself, here's a podcast that discusses it in way too much detail.

His most famous animated role was that of Inspector Gadget, which he originated in 1983.  Here's the catchy intro.  Over the next fifteen years, the series had a number of revivals, before Don officially retired from the role in 1999.  Ironically, his final acting role was in that year's live-action adaptation of Inspector Gadget, in which he provided the voice of Brain the Dog.  Go go gadget career!

Don mostly retired from the spotlight after the film.  He led a rather secluded life, which sadly ended on September 25, 2005, when he passed from lymphoma at age 82.

His funeral was well attended and looked more like a celebrity roast.  Eulogists included Don Rickles, Bill Dana, Barbara Feldon and James Caan.

He was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  A plaque commemorates his role of Agent 86.

The inscription on the plaque reads:
Beloved husband, father and grandfather.  Proudly served his country during WWII in the United States Marine Corps.
Comedian, poet, philosopher, movie buff and never late for post time.  A tough but sensitive man with a sentimental heart and a passionate soul.

He touched our hearts as Maxwell Smart, secret agent 86 in the 1960's classic TV series, "Get Smart" and filled the world with laughter that will forever be remembered.
Rest in peace, Schmart!

  • One of Don's high school classmates in New York was Larry Storch, the future star of TV's F-Troop.  Years later, both were nominated for Emmy Awards for their respective series.  Which one of them took home the trophy?  See for yourself in this clip.  Incidentally, as of this posting, Larry is 97 years old and still doing autograph conventions.

  • Many of the catchphrases made famous by Get Smart, including "Would you believe...," "Missed it by that much" and "Sorry about that, Chief" were brought to the series by Don himself, who had used them with great success in his earlier night club career.

  • In the years after Get Smart, Don appeared in a number of commercials, selling a wide variety of products.  Click on the links to see some of the more memorable ones: Electronic Detective, Pendulum Pool, Bearcat Scanners, Shifty Checkers, SaveMart.   The best of this group however, are the McDonald's ads Don did, appearing with a number of other classic TV stars.

  • While Don never published any books, his co-star Barbara Feldon did.  In 2003, she released a guide for the single gal called Living Alone and Loving It.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • Get Smart was originally written for actor Tom Poston, later of Newhart fame.  When Adams became available for the role, Poston was shown the door.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sam Kinison


"I don't worry about terrorism.  I was married for two years."
  --Sam Kinison

Samuel Burl Kinison was born in Yakima, Washington on December 8, 1953.  He was the third of four sons of a Pentecostal preacher, who often moved the family from one parish to another.

When Kinison was eleven, his parents divorced and his mother quickly remarried, this time to another preacher.  She moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Kinison would stay with her for a short time.  But the brothers emulated their father, each one becoming a preacher as well.

Kinison started his studies at the Pinecrest Bible Training Center in New York.  By seventeen, he had his own pulpit, one he'd maintain for the next seven years.  He used a fire and brimstone approach to his sermons, which were often sprinkled with the same shouts and screams that would later define his stand-up routine.  He gave up the pulpit at 24, following his first divorce.

Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual
Young Comedians Special
, 1985.
Having decided on stand-up comedy as his next career, Kinison moved to Houston in 1978, where he joined a comedy group called the Texas Outlaw Comics.  It was obvious to fellow members that Kinison's style was not run of the mill.  Friend and group member Bill Hicks said "He was the first guy I ever saw go on stage and not in any way ask the audience to like him."

Having tasted some initial success, Kinison moved to Los Angeles in 1980, intent on working at the Comedy Store.  The famed comedy club hired Kinison, but not in the role he'd expected.  He took a job as a doorman, seating customers for other more notable comics.  Depressed, Kinison began taking cocaine, a trademark that would also define his career.

It would be another five years before he'd get his next break, appearing on an HBO special hosted by Rodney Dangerfield.  The special put Kinison on the map, giving him the exposure he'd always wanted.  It led to several appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, the first of which you can view here.

Kinison's approach to humor was of the take-no-prisoners variety.  He was criticized for his satirical and sacrilegious take on the Bible while simultaneously being picketed for his jokes aimed at the gay community.  Much of his humor came from his by then two failed marriages.

Towards the end of his second marriage, Kinison began dating a dancer named Malika Souiri.  Defying every routine he'd ever given on stage, Kinison decided to give marriage one last shot.  The couple were married on April 4, 1992 at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas.  They'd honeymoon in Hawaii, before flying home to tragedy.

Six days after they were married, Kinison and his bride were driving from Los Angeles to Laughlin, Nevada, where Sam was scheduled to perform at a sold-out show.  In the car behind them were Carl LaBove, Sam's best friend and opening act, as well as Sam's brother Bill, who had assumed the role of his business manager.

As the cars traveled down U.S. Route 9 near the town of Needles, California, a pickup truck crossed the center line and hit Kinison's 1989 Turbo Trans Am head on.  Kinison had not been wearing his seat belt and hit the windshield head on.

Rescuers on the scene found Kinison alive, stating to no one in particular "I don't want to die.  I don't want to die."  Carl LaBove later recalled that Kinison appeared to be listening to someone, to whom he asked "But why?"  He added that Kinison eventually accepted what the unheard voice was saying by replying "Okay.  Okay.  Okay."  He died on the scene from internal injuries.  Malika survived the accident but suffered a concussion.

He was buried in a family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Inscription: In another time and place he would have been called prophet
Here's a clearer image taken from the web.


  • This blogger first became aware of Kinison via the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School, in which he played Rodney's crazed American History professor.  You surely remember the scene, and you can relive it here.

  • Two years after Kinison's death, his brother released the biography Brother Sam: The Short Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison.  Howard Stern bought the movie rights to the book, but the film was never produced.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • The driver of the pickup truck was seventeen-year-old Troy Pierson, who was, as you might expect, drunk at the time of the accident.  He pled guilty to one count of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to one year of probation and 300 hours of community service.

  • In 2011, Kinison's best friend and opening act Carl LaBove filed legal papers claiming Sam had fathered a child in 1989.  Both Kinison and LaBove had dated the mother at that time, with the latter paying child support beginning in 1998.  A DNA test was conducted, using Kinison's brother Bill.  It concluded with 99.8 percent certainty that Sam had fathered the child.

  • Kinison and Roseanne Barr were the original choices to play Al and Peg Bundy on Married With Children.  Although Barr never appeared on the series, Kinison eventually did, giving the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life a comedic spin.  Watch a clip here.

  • Kinison headlined a 1991 sit-com called Charlie Hoover, which also starred Tim Matheson.  Kinison appeared as Hugh, the little voice in Matheson's head, guiding him through his daily decisions.  Get it?  Hugh.  It was mercifully short-lived, and as you'd expect, it aired on FOX.  You can watch the pilot episode here.

  • Wanna see the site of the crash?  Vlogger Jordan the Lion takes you there in this clip.  It comes in at the 11:00 mark.  Jordan talks too much.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911.  He was the son of Irish immigrants who had settled in the Midwest, eventually moving to Dixon, Illinois.

There he attended Dixon High School, where he first became interested in acting.  Later at Eureka College, he majored in economics and sociology.  He excelled in a number of extra-curricular activities, serving as student body president.  He was a member of the football team and was captain of the swim team.  He was also very involved in the school's theatre program.

After graduation, Reagan got into radio.  He joined WHO in Des Moines where he served as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs.  While on the road with the team in California, Reagan took a screen test in Hollywood that led to a seven-year contract.  He was King of the "B Unit," of which he said "producers didn't want them good, they wanted them Thursday."  One of these movies was 1939's Code of the Secret Service, a film so bad that Reagan said he never even saw it.  Here he is discussing that film with talk show host Dick Cavett.

After appearing in 19 of these films, Reagan jumped to the A list in 1940, when he was cast as George Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American.  The film earned him the nickname "The Gipper," which would follow him throughout his life.  Gipp delivered a motivational speech towards the end of the film, one that is often quoted (and parodied) to this day.  Check it out here.  Two years later, he appeared in the film King's Row, which made him a star overnight.  Not only was it his favorite film to work on, but most critics consider it his finest work.

Throughout college and later as an actor, Reagan was a solid democrat, and held Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of his personal heroes.  Later in his political career, he joined several committees that echoed this philosophy and often fought against Republican-sponsored legislation.  His shift to the right began in the early 1950s when he endorsed both Dwight D. Eisenhower and later Richard Nixon in their bids for the White House. 

In 1954, Reagan was working for General Electric as host of their weekly television series.  The company also employed him as a motivational speaker, sending him cross country to speak with more than 2,000 GE employees.  He wrote his own speeches, which while non-partisan, carried a pro-business message.  This, coupled with his upbringing in a Christian household, invigorated his sense of public service.  He found himself craving a much larger stage.  His mind made up, he resigned from GE and formally registered as a republican.  As he'd state many times over, "I didn't leave the Democratic party.  The party left me."

Future Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan
with Barry Goldwater, 1964.
Reagan first gained national political attention in 1964, when he campaigned and spoke for the republican nominee for President, Barry Goldwater.  He delivered the now-famous speech "A Time for Choosing."  Although it wouldn't be enough to ensure Goldwater's presidency, it did lay the groundwork for Reagan's.  You can view that speech in its entirety here.

The following year, Reagan made his first bid for Governor of California.  His campaign had two main themes, neither of which I'm making up.  First, he vowed to "send the welfare bums back to work."  Then, in reference to anti-war protests taking place on campus, Reagan vowed to "clean up the mess at Berkeley."  He defeated the incumbent governor, democrat Pat Brown and served two terms, then set his sites higher.

He first ran for President in 1976.  The Republican primaries went down to the wire, but ultimately, Reagan lost to the incumbent, Gerald Ford.  Ford of course, subsequently lost to Jimmy Carter.  But with a multitude of domestic and international concerns, including American hostages in Iran and the skyrocketing price of oil, 1980 would be different.  In his second bid for the White House, Reagan won his party's nomination, then defeated the one-term President from Georgia.

April 28, 1981.
Two months into his first term, the President survived an assassination attempt outside a hotel in Washington, DC.  Taken to a hospital following the attack, he famously told doctors "I hope you all are republicans."  He returned to his duties just one month later, giving a rousing speech on the House floor.

The highlights of Reagan's first term include the air traffic controller's strike, the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, and the escalation of the Cold War.  He also appointed the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor.  These epsiodes, as well as his introduction of "Reaganomics," ensured him a second term.

He took on a number of social issues, including an intense war on drugs (Just Say No), civil rights and immigration.  Of the latter, he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants.  It also required employers to attest to their workers' immigration status.  Conversely, it granted amnesty to three million illegal immigrants who had been in the country since 1982.

His second term would also see its share of controversies however, including his response to the growing AIDS epidemic as well as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Farewell address, January 11, 1989.
When he left office in January 1989, he delivered what many believe to be his speech ever.  Of his eight years in office, he said "they called it the Reagan revolution.  Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense." You can watch that speech in its entirety here.

He'd stay active over the next few years, even appearing on stage at the 1992 Republican Presidential convention.  But within just a few years he'd be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and would lead a more secluded life.  His last public appearance was at the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994.

President Ronald Reagan died at his home on June 5, 2004.  He was interred at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  In 2016, wife Nancy would join him.

Inscription: I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will
eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
 Rest in peace.

  • Ronald Reagan was just two weeks shy of his 70th birthday at his first Presidential inauguration.  He was the oldest person ever sworn in as President, a record that would last until January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump, approaching 71 years was old, was inaugurated.

  • John Hinkley, Jr. who attempted to assassinate Reagan in 1981, did so in a desperate measure to impress actress Jodie Foster (!). He was confined to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington after being found insane.  However, in 2016 he was released to his mother's care in Williamsburg, Virginia, despite public outcry.  A quick side note.  The television series The Greatest American Hero, which had been in production for several months preceding Hinkley's attack, was forced to retcon the name of its main character, Ralph Hinkley, for concerns of association.

  • In 1937, Reagan joined the Army Enlisted Reserve and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant.  Due to his poor eyesight, he was barred from overseas service, instead serving in public relations.  He left the Army a full Captain in 1945.

  • Reagan was elected President of the Screen Actor's Guild six times throughout the 1940s and 50s.  During his tenure, he ensured that television actors would earn residual salaries for repeats and that film actors would be paid when their movies were shown on television.  The Hollywood Blacklist Era also came during Reagan's tenure, and he was frequently called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Feeling used by the government, he asked during one FBI interview "do they expect us to constitute as a little FBI of our own and determine just who is a commie and who isn't?"

  • Reagan was the first President to have guests in attendance at the State of the Union Address.  In 1982, he invited 28-year-old Lenny Skutnik of Washington, DC to attend, just two weeks after Skutnik dove into the icy waters of the Potomac River to rescue a survivor of the Air Florida crash.  Since then, all presidential guests seated in the gallery are referred to as "Lenny Skutniks."

  • In 1993, Reagan was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the United States can bestow.  He received it from his successor George H.W. Bush during the final days of his presidency.

  • In 2001, the Navy christened the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered supercarrier that is still in service to this day.  Although many carriers had been posthumously named after former presidents, this was the first to be named after one who was still alive at the time.

  • Reagan was quite fond of the 1985 movie Back to the Future, as he was used as a punchline in the film.  He liked it so much that one year later, he worked the final line of dialogue into his 1986 State of the Union address, telling America that "where we're going, we don't need roads."

  • On what would have been his 100th birthday in 2011, two collections of Reagan's works were published as autobiographies.  Pick them up at Amazon.
      * An American Life
      * The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom

  • As Governor, Reagan appeared on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast as its Man of the Hour.  He wanted to appeal to the every man as he started his first bid for the White House.  Here's a clip of comedian Don Rickles, uh, paying tribute to the Gipper.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Harold Ramis

Harold Allen Ramis was born in Chicago on November 21, 1944.  He grew up on the North Side, where his father owned a local liquor store. 

Ramis likened himself to the Marx Brothers and to their brand of comedy.  By the time he entered college in St. Louis, he was already writing comedic plays.

After school, he returned to Chicago, where he took a job as a substitute teacher.  He also began submitting freelance articles to the Chicago Daily News, who was so impressed with his writing that they gave him regular assignments.  This in turn led to Ramis landing a job at Playboy, where he edited and re-wrote the joke page.

It was also during this time that Ramis began performing with Chicago's Second City improv group.  In 1976, they launched Second City Television (SCTV), a sketch comedy series that ran for eight years.  Ramis served as both a writer and headliner during the show's first three seasons, creating such characters as station manager Moe Green and Officer Friendly.  Click on each to see a sample of his work.

Ramis left SCTV to pursue a film career and he hit the ground running.  He co-wrote the script for 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House, which was the seventh highest-grossing film of the 1970s.  For six years, it would remain the highest grossing comedy of all time, until a film called Ghostbusters, also written by Ramis, would surpass it in 1984.

His follow-up films included 1979's Meatballs and 1980's Caddyshack, both of which were very successful at the box office and both of which featured Ramis's friend Bill Murray.  Click on each title to see their respective trailers.

1983 would bring his most successful feature since Animal House, with the release of National Lampoon's Vacation.  Ramis

co-wrote and directed the Chevy Chase cross-country adventure, using 65 filming locations between Colorado and Los Angeles.

1986 saw the release of another comedy written by Ramis, the Rodney Dangerfield epic Back to School.  It was a huge success at the box office and is often credited with revitalizing Dangerfield's career.  However, it would be the last hit for either him or Ramis for some time to come.  Over the next six years, Ramis wrote a string of box office flops, including Club Paradise, Armed and Dangerous and the animated Rover Dangerfield.  If you happen to recognize the music in the Rover trailer, and more specifically the film it comes from, give yourself a pat on the back.

Ramis redeemed himself in 1993, with what many film critics regard as his masterpiece - Groundhog Day.  It earned more than $70 million at the box office and was the tenth highest-grossing film of the year.  You can watch the trailer here.  Then watch it again here.  And you can watch it here too.

Ramis continued writing films over the next decade, most prominently Analyze This and its less successful sequel, Analyze That.  In 2010 however, his health started to decline, after contracting autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, which robbed him of his ability to walk.  He'd spend the next year fighting the disease, before suffering a critical relapse.  Ultimately it took his life on February 24, 2014.  He was 69 years old.

He was interred at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by and pay your respects.  The groundskeeper I spoke with expressed great disappointment that more fans don't.

Location: Section XIV Mamre, 8B

"Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Friend, Teacher, Student, Creative Force, Generous Spirit,
Lover of Life, Loved By All"
Rest in peace, Egon.

  • After graduating from college, Ramis spent seven months working in a mental institution.  He'd later quip "it prepared me well for when I went out to Hollywood to work with actors."

  • In 2018, Violet Ramis Stiel released a biography of her father entitled Ghostbuster's Daughter: Life With My Dad, Harold Ramis.  Pick up a copy from AmazonHere's a clip of her selling the book on KTLA Los Angeles.  And here's a random piece of trivia. Violet appeared in Vacation as Cousin Eddie's daughter, the one born without a tongue.

  • In case you've ever wondered just how long Bill Murray was reliving Groundhog Day, Ramis claimed that he spent about ten years in the temporal loop.

  • Anyone who has seen Vacation knows that it ends with Clark Griswald buying a gun and forcing his way into the shuttered Walley World, but that's not how it originally ended.  As shot, Clark bought a map of the stars homes and paid a visit to the Walley Estate, where he forced the Disney wannabe to sing and entertain his family.  At this point, one of Walley's seven kids, played by Christie Brinkley, shows up and pleads for leniency for Clark and his family.  Walley lets them go and they fly home.  En route, the captain announces that the plane will not land in Chicago, at which point Clark hijacks the plane.  This ending did not sit well with test audiences, so the revised ending was written.  Ramis appeared on David Letterman's talk show in 1983 and discussed that original ending in this segment.  Although Chevy Chase claims to have a copy of the original ending, no footage has ever surfaced.  The only surviving proof is a still that appears in the film's closing credits.

  • Although he played an Army officer in Stripes, Ramis went out of his way to avoid military service, going so far as to take methamphetamine to fail his draft physical.

  • During the production of Vacation, Ramis gave an interview with Reelin' in the Years Productions, conducted indoors at the Grand Canyon.  It's notable because if you look out the window behind Ramis, you can see the spot where Ellen Griswald asks her husband "don't you want to look at the Grand Canyon?"  You can watch that interview here.

  • Ramis and long time friend Bill Murray had a falling out during the production of Groundhog Day, as the two had different visions for what that film should be.  It lasted for more than 20 years.  As Ramis's health declined, Murray was encouraged to make amends with him while he had the chance, and fortunately he did.  The two met at Ramis's home in Illinois, sharing a box of donuts.

  • Ramis had two uncredited voice-over roles in Vacation.  First, he's the voice of the animatronic Marty Moose just outside the gates of Walley World.  Later, he's the off-screen police officer who asks Roy Walley what to do with the Griswalds. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835.  He was the sixth of seven children and one of only four to survive childhood.

When he was four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a town that would serve as the inspiration for several of his later writings.  Clemens began his education there, but was forced to drop out just a few years later following his father's death.  By age 12, Clemens was already working as a printer's apprentice in order to help his family.

Clemens had an obvious knack for writing, and by 16, he was already contributing articles and sketches to the Hannibal Journal.  Two years later he joined the printer's trade union, leaving Hannibal for such other cities as New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis, all the while furthering his education on his own via public libraries.

Clemens would return to Hannibal, where he spent a few years as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River.  That career came to an end as the Civil War began, shutting down all traffic on the river.  He headed west to Nevada, where he joined his brother Orion.

Clemens settled in Virginia City.  He went to work as a miner, but it wouldn't last long.  When he left the mines he returned to journalism, working as a writer at the Territorial Enterprise.  It was during this time that he adopted his more famous pen name, Mark Twain.

A few years later, Twain moved to San Francisco.  It was here that he published his first humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, in 1865.  Published in the New York magazine The Weekly Press, the story made Twain a national name.

In 1870, Twain married Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York.  As they started having children, Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut.  It was here that he wrote several of his classics, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).  The marriage lasted for 34 years.

Following Olivia's death in 1904, Twain spent his final years in Manhattan, mainly in a state of depression.  In addition to losing his wife, Twain lost two daughters during this time, Susy in 1896 and Jean in 1909.  He kept mostly to himself, but did occasionally perform charitable work, helping to raise funds for friends devastated by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

By 1909, Twain's time was coming to an end, something he was well aware of.  A true man of science, he felt his death fitting, as it would coincide with the impending arrival of Halley's Comet.  Said Twain, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.  It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet."

Twain reached that milestone, passing on April 21, 1910.  He was interred in the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York.

Woodlawn Cemetery makes it easy to find their
most famous resident.

The Clemens Family marker.

One of Twain's many quotes serves as the inscription.

His final resting place.

Rest in peace, Sam.

  • Virginia City, Nevada, just outside of Reno, is home to the Mark Twain Museum.  The building itself is the former home of the Territorial Enterprise, Nevada's first newspaper, which Twain wrote for as a reporter.  Among the items on display is the actual toilet Twain used while serving the state.  Interested?  Visit Roadside America for more information.
Photo by Lombard.
  • Clemens had a great interest in parapsychology, and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  He believed he had foreseen the death of a close friend in a dream one month before the man in fact died.

  • Olivia Langdon came from a very liberal family, who initially rejected the southern author.  Through the marriage, Twain would come to know several prominent figures of the day, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Dean Howells and Frederick Douglass.

  • Twain developed relationships with other historical figures as well, including Nikola Tesla, with whom he shared an interest in science, and Thomas Edison, who shot the only known footage of Twain in 1909.  You can watch that footage here.
  • Twain was an early proponent of fingerprinting as a crime-solving technique.

  • On his deathbed, Twain claimed to have once visited the 24th Century, but most historians discount this claim.