Monday, September 28, 2020

Rodney King


Rodney Glen King was born in Sacramento, California on April 2, 1965.  He was one of five children to Odessa and Ronald King, the latter of whom passed away when Rodney was just nineteen. 

By his early 20s, King was getting into trouble with the law.  In 1989, he robbed a store in Monterey Park, severely beating the owner with a wooden pole.  He netted $200 for the assault, but was sentenced to two years in prison.  He was released one year early, on December 27, 1990.  Had he served his full sentence, none of the following would have happened.

On March 3, 1991, shortly after midnight, King and two friends were driving home on Interstate 210 in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  Police officers Tim and Melanie Singer, married, attempted to pull the car over for speeding, but King decided to make a break for it.  He would later explain that a DUI charge would violate the conditions of his parole and send him back to prison.

The chase continued, reaching a top speed of 117 MPH.  King got off the 210 and continued to flee through a residential area near the Hansen Dam Recreation Area.  By this point, several cars had joined the pursuit, as well as an LAPD chopper.  They managed to pull King over eight miles later.  Officers on the scene included the Singers, Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano.

Tim Singer ordered the three to exit the vehicle.  While the two passengers complied, King initially refused to come out.  When he finally did, he was observed reaching behind his back.  Although the officers interpreted this as a sign that he was reaching for a weapon, he was later found to be unarmed.

Koon, as the highest ranking officer on the scene, took charge, and ordered all officers to holster their weapons.  He tasered King, believing him to be under the influence of PCP, which toxicology tests would later disprove.

King started to rise towards Officer Powell, who began striking him with his baton.  Koon ordered him to stop, but as King began to rise again, the other officers pulled their batons, landing a total of 33 blows to the body, along with 7 kicks, before it was all over.  King was taken into custody.

Awakened by the alarms in his neighborhood, local plumber and self-proclaimed "budding videographer" George Holliday went to investigate, his video camera in tow.  He started recording just after King was tasered, filming the last eight minutes of the event.  

King was taken to Pacifica Hospital.  He had a broken right ankle and a fractured facial bone.  He was also found to be legally drunk under California law.  Tests also found the presence of marijuana in his system, which at the time, was illegal in California.

Holliday called the LAPD and told them about his video, but the police weren't interested.  He then decided to share it with the media, so he contacted KTLA in Los Angeles.  As a result, his footage was seen the world over and gave rise to the term "citizen journalist."  In case you've never seen it, you can watch the full eight minutes here.

As a result of Holliday's footage, the L.A. County District Attorney charged four of the officers with assault and excessive force.  After seven days of deliberation, the jury acquitted all four officers, citing footage from the Holliday tape that had not been presented to the general public.  The acquittal resulted in days of rioting and looting in Los Angeles, with more than 60 people killed.  KABC in Los Angeles covered much of the rioting and you can see a compilation video here.

King filed a lawsuit against the city and was ultimately awarded more than $5 million.  He invested much of it in a new record label called Straight Alta-Pazz Records.  It didn't last long however and soon went out of business.  

2011 mug shot.
King's legal troubles continued however.  In 1993, he crashed into a concrete wall in L.A. and was convicted of driving under the influence.  While drunk in 1995, he ran over his wife and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.  In 2003, he was arrested for speeding and running a red light while under the influence.  Fleeing police, he slammed his car into a house and shattered his pelvis.  Finally in 2011, he was arrested again for driving under the influence.

In the early morning hours of June 17, 2012, Father's Day, King's fiancee found him at the bottom of his swimming pool.  Authorities transported him to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 47.  An autopsy revealed King died of an accidental drowning, with cocaine, alcohol and PCP serving as contributing factors.

King's funeral was held on June 30 at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.  The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.

Inscription: Beloved Son, Brother, Father, Grandfather, Uncle, Cousin, Friend
Can't We All Get Along
Location: Exaltation Section, Map #J14, Lot #3160, Space #3

  • At the time of his passing, King was engaged to Cynthia Kelley, who had served as a juror in his lawsuit against the city.  

  • Just one month before he died, King released his life story.  You can pick up a copy of The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption from Amazon.

  • In an effort to promote the book, King gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network.  He didn't know it at the time, but it would be his last interview ever.  You can watch it here.

  • In 2008, King appeared on the reality series Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew as well as it's spin-off series Sober House.  During the former, series host Dr. Drew Pinsky told King he would die unless his addictions were treated.

  • King died 28 years to the day after his father drowned in a bathtub.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Harvey Korman

Harvey Herschel Korman was born in Chicago on February 15, 1927.  He was the son of Russian immigrants and was raised in the Jewish faith.  

Korman knew from the beginning that he wanted to be an entertainer.  He started acting in school plays while still in kindergarten before turning professional at age 12, when he signed with a local Chicago radio station.

After a tour of duty with the Navy during World War 2, Korman returned to Chicago, where he studied drama at what is now DePaul University.  When he completed his education, he relocated to New York, where he spent several years unsuccessfully trying to make it on Broadway.

Then in 1960, Korman moved to Hollywood, where finding work came easier for him.  Over the next few years, he'd appear on such series as The Donna Reed Show, Dennis the Menace and Perry Mason before landing a permanent role on The Danny Kaye Show in 1965.  Like The Carol Burnett Show that would follow, the series was a sketch-comedy musical variety show, featuring Korman as a series of different and unique characters.  You can watch an episode in its entirety here.  

That same year, Korman joined the cast of The Flintstones for what would be it's final season.  He played the oddly misplaced character of The Great Gazoo, a supernatural being who only Fred and Barney could see.  But you can see a clip here.  

When The Danny Kaye Show folded in 1967, Korman was approached by comedian Carol Burnett to join the cast of her new comedy series.  Literally.  He was in the parking lot at CBS and she ambushed him.  He decided to accept her offer, and it was the best career move he ever made. 

The series lasted for eleven seasons and made stars of its entire cast.  While Korman was often nominated for the Emmy Award, he'd never bring home the trophy, but he did win a Golden Globe Award in 1975.  The series would spawn dozens of memorable characters, particularly those from the "Family" segments, which featured Korman as southern boy Bud, husband to Burnett's eccentric Eunice character. 

The sketch would launch a spin-off series titled Mama's Family.  Initially, Korman appeared on the series as both Bud and as series host Alistair Quince, a parody of Masterpiece Theatre's Alistair Cooke.  Those introductions were dropped in syndication however and are not available on home video.  But here's one recorded off NBC in 1982. 

While Carol Burnett was riding high in the ratings, Korman was approached by director Mel Brooks to appear in what has come to be his signature film, Blazing Saddles, a spoof of the western film genre.  Korman appeared as Hedley Lamarr, a corrupt district attorney in an unnamed western territory.  The film was an instant success, earning $120 million at the box office.  In 2006, it was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress, who selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.  You can watch the theatrical trailer here.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Korman continued to find work in Hollywood, usually through Mel Brooks.  The two re-united for both High Anxiety (1977) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), though neither would be as successful as their previous venture.  The two also collaborated on the 1989 sit-com The Nutt House, which only ran for five episodes before NBC pulled the plug.  Here's the pilot episode.

In January 2008, Korman suffered from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.  He survived the episode but the damage was done.  He'd ultimately pass from associated complications on May 29th.  He was 81 years old.

Korman was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.

Inscription: "You're born, you suffer, and you die"
Location: Mausoleum, 2nd Floor, Unity Corridor, East Wall

Rest in peace, Hedy!


  • Just this month, Korman's son Chris released a book about his father's career.  You can pick up a copy of OMG! It's Harvey Korman's Son! from Amazon.

  • In the 1990s, Korman would return to Bedrock, providing his voice for other characters in the two live-action Flintstones feature films, before reprising Gazoo for the 2000 video game The Flintstones: Bedrock Bowling.  Curious?  Click here.

  • Korman appeared in the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, playing not one, but three different characters.  The one most remembered is that of Chef Gormaanda, a spoof of Julia Childs.  Really.  You can watch that segment here.

  • That same year, he co-starred with Buddy Hackett in the made-for-TV film Bud and Lou, a biopic of Abbott and Costello.  It was an odd turn for Korman, who played the more straight-laced Bud Abbott.  The film was widely panned by critics, but you can see it in its entirety here.

  • In 1982, Korman joined his Carol Burnett co-stars in the made-for-TV movie Eunice, reprising his role of Bud from the "Family" segments.  You can watch that movie in its entirety here.  

  • On The Carol Burnett Show, Korman was often paired with Tim Conway, with the latter usually serving as the straight man.  Korman had a hard time concealing his laughter from the camera, as in this famous sketch, when he pays a visit to his dentist.

  • Korman's co-star Vicki Lawrence has a two-woman stage show that travels the country, wherein she reprises her role of Mama.  This blogger was fortunate enough to see her show in 2016.

  • Every year on the anniversary of his death, Korman has a habit of re-dying, thanks to Internet hoaxsters.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Greatest!

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942.  He was the son of a billboard painter and a domestic servant who raised their son in the Baptist faith.  Clay was dyslexic, a problem that he would never truly overcome.  It caused great difficulties during his school years, as did the racial segregation taking part in his community.  

When Clay was 12 years old, someone stole his bicycle.  He had no way of knowing it, but this episode would forever alter the course of his life.  He reported the crime to Louisville police officer Joe E. Martin, adding that he intended to find and "whup" the thief.  Martin informed the young Clay that he had better learn how to box.  Clay was hesitant at first, but was later inspired by a local boxing TV program.  He began to work with trainer Fred Stoner, the man he credited for teaching him his style.

Clay made his amateur debut in 1954, fighting local boxer Ronnie O'Keefe and beating him in a split decision.  He'd later win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles and two national titles, before setting his sites on the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.  There he bested Poland's Zigzy Pietrzykowski, bringing home the gold medal.  You can watch that fight here

Following the Olympics, Clay turned pro.  For the next four years he remained undefeated, amassing 19 wins, 15 of which were by knockout.  Included among his many victories was his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore.  The learner was now the master.

All of this was preparing Clay for his first shot at the Heavyweight title, which came on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach.  There he faced then-current champion Sonny Liston, an imposing figure in his own right with known ties to the mob.  In a fight reminiscent of basically every Rocky movie, no one expected Clay to win.  But win he did, in a major upset.  In doing so, he became the youngest contender to ever best a champion.  You can watch that fight here.

Following this fight, Clay converted to Islam.  He adopted the more commonly known moniker of Muhammad Ali and resumed his professional career.  His first contender was none other than Sonny Liston, who only lasted two minutes in the ring!  His next bout was with former champion Floyd Patterson, a fight that remains controversial to this day.  Despite having an obvious physical advantage over Patterson, the fight lasted for 12 rounds, leading many to believe that Ali was toying with the defeated champ.  Others claim Ali was showing him mercy, helping him earn enough money to pay off a huge debt to the IRS.

The champ was about to take a hiatus however.  In March 1966, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, at a time when America was overseas fighting the Vietnam War.  In response, Ali was denied a boxing license by all 50 states (even the blue ones) and his passport was revoked.  As a result, he'd sit out the next five years.  During the interim, he went on the college lecture circuit, where he spoke out against the war.  He regained his license in 1971.

His first fight would become one of his most famous, the appropriately dubbed "Fight of the Century" against "Smokin' Joe" Frazier, on March 8, 1971.  It was broadcast in 35 countries and promoted worldwide.  The two boxers taunted one another, both inside and out of the ring, with Ali declaring Frazier "too ugly to be champ" and Frazier questioning Ali's mental state.  Ultimately, Frazier was the victor, resulting in Ali's first professional defeat.  The two would meet in the ring once again three years later, with a very different outcome.  You can watch their 1971 fight here.

Following the 1974 rematch, Ali decided it was time to reclaim the title from current heavyweight champion George Foreman.  The two would meet in the African nation of Zaire on October 30, 1974, the infamously dubbed "Rumble in the Jungle."  As usual, no one expected Ali to win against the younger, unbeaten Foreman.  Ali famously quipped "if you think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned, wait til I whup Foreman's behind!"  And whup it he did, in a major upset victory.  How come no one ever routed for this guy?  For years, it remained the world's most-watched sporting event, and you can watch it here.

Not having learned his lesson, Frazier wanted another shot at Ali.  The two would meet in Manila on October 1, 1975 for the "Thrilla in Manila," a fight that Ali would ultimately win, but not without taking a heavy toll.  Think Rocky after beating Drago.  Ali was so spent from the fight that he considered retirement.  He stated "I'm sore all over.  My arms, my face, my sides all ache.  I'm so, so tired.  There is a great possibility that I will retire.  You might have seen the last of me.  I want to sit back and count my money, live in my house and my farm, work for my people and concentrate on my family."

But he stayed in the ring for another five years.  His final fight was against Larry Holmes on October 2, 1980.  It was a loss for the champ, and not how he would have preferred to go out.  Sitting by his side was Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone, who summed up the fight by saying it was like watching an autopsy on a man who was still alive.  You can watch that fight here.  Some time later, Ali would announce that he suffered from Parkinson's disease, which many attributed to the Holmes fight.

By 1998, Ali was suffering the full effects of Parkinson's, but it didn't keep him at home.  He partnered with Michael J. Fox to raise awareness of the disease.  In 2009, the two cut a PSA together, which you can watch here.  Ali even continued to make personal appearances.

Ali participated in a panel discussion on race in 
America at American University in June 1997.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Miller.)

For the next few years, Ali stayed out of the public spotlight.  Rumors of his declining health continued to spread, with his brother even declaring in 2013 that Ali could no longer speak and would be dead within days.  He'd prove his brother wrong and last another three years, before ultimately passing on June 2, 2016.  He was 74 years old.

He was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.  This blogger arrived shortly after his passing.

In time, a permanent marker was placed on the site.

He took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience.
One tablespoon of generosity, one pint of kindness.
He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern.
And then he mixed willingness with happiness.
He added lots of faith and he stirred it up well.
Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime.
And he served to each and every person he met.

Rest in peace, Champ.


  • Cassius Clay was named after his father, who was himself named after Republican politician and abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay.

  • Over the course of his career, Ali was hit more than 200,000 times.

  • In 1981, Ali talked a suicidal man off of a ninth-floor ledge.  The story made national headlines.

  • Ali claimed that his colorful ringside manner was an homage to professional wrestler "Gorgeous George" Wagner.

  • In 2015, Ali published his memoirs, entitled The Greatest: My Own Story.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • Just how tough was Ali?  Tough enough to take on Superman!  Pick up a copy of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali from Amazon.

  • In 1973, The Brady Bunch produced an episode wherein youngest boy Bobby pretended to be dying so he could meet his hero, Joe Namath.  The plot worked, so much so that in 1978, Diff'rent Strokes used it again, this time having Ali appear as Arnold's hero.  Watch a clip here.  And just for fun, here's the original Brady Bunch scene.  

  • Following the Manila fight, Ali fought against Richard Dunn, whom he knocked out using the "accupunch."  This technique was taught to him by Twaekondo expert Jhoon Rhee, who had himself learned the move from Bruce Lee.  Jhoon Rhee was something of a local legend in the Washington, DC area throughout the 70s and 80s, known for his commercial with the catchy jingle.  Check it out here.

  • Ali was a singer as well.  In 1963, he released his album "I am the Greatest!," which featured a cover of "Stand By Me."  Listen to it here.  Then pick up a copy of the album at Amazon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Betty and Barney Hill


Betty and Barney Hill are not exactly household names.  While you may not have heard of them, you've probably heard their story, or one very similar.  A story of lost time, hypnotherapy and ultimately, alien abduction.  But more on that later.

Betty was born Eunice Elizabeth Barrett in Newton, New Hampshire on June 28, 1919.  She was a social worker and was very involved in the growing civil rights campaign, through which she met Barney.

He was born in Newport News, Virginia on July 20, 1922.  He was a postal worker in Philadelphia before his career brought him to New Hampshire, where he became a local leader in the NAACP.  Divorced from his first wife, Barney married Betty at a time when mixed-raced couples were not all that common.

In the early morning hours of September 20, 1961, the Hills returned to their home in Portsmouth following a weeklong road trip to Canada.  Although they had spent several memorable days exploring Montreal and Niagara Falls, neither could remember arriving home.  However, they both vividly recalled spotting an unidentified flying object the night before as they traveled down U.S. Route 3 in Lancaster, New Hampshire. 

Once at their home, Betty and Barney were both overcome by a series of odd circumstances and impulses that they could not explain.  There were shiny, concentric circles on their car.  Neither of their watches would ever work again.  Barney noted that the strap on his binoculars had been torn, but he could not recall how it had happened.  He was also compelled to examine his body but he didn't understand why.  And Betty refused to allow the luggage from their trip to be brought into the house.

The Hills drove a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.
  Unable to explain any of this, the
  Hills reconstructed the previous
  evening's events as best they
  could. They remembered
  stopping their car at a picnic area
  near Twin Mountain to take
  a closer look.  Taking the
  binoculars, Betty observed an
  odd-shaped craft flashing a series
  of multi-colored lights. 

When Barney took a look for himself, he initially decided that it was a commercial airliner, but he quickly changed his mind as the object approached them.  Barney would later famously quip "this object that was a plane was not a plane."

They continued on their journey while keeping an eye on their strange visitor, which began to bounce erratically across the sky.  Near the town of Indian Head, they watched as it made a rapid descent toward their car and began emitting a series of strange beeping noises.  The Hills described a tingling sensation throughout their bodies, resulting in an altered state of consciousness.  They stopped in the middle of the highway as the craft hovered directly over their car.  But that was the last they could remember of the evening's events.

More than a week after returning home, Betty began having nightmares, strange visions of her and Barney during their alien encounter.  The dreams continued for five consecutive nights with little to no variation.  The couple were abducted by grayish figures, then taken aboard their craft and subjected to medical examinations.  Betty could not recall ever remembering her dreams as vividly as those of the encounter, but she and Barney agreed to never discuss them again.

Dr. Benjamin Simon.
A year would pass before they would revisit the issue.  In November of 1962, the Hills met Ben Swett, an Air Force Captain at their church, who gave a discussion on hypnosis.  They relayed what they could remember of that night and
asked if it were possible to retrieve their lost memories via hypnosis.  Intrigued, Captain  Swett put them in contact with a colleague of his, Dr. Benjamin Simon of Boston.

On January 4, 1964, Simon began a series of hypnotherapy sessions with the Hills.  He conducted them separately so that neither would overhear the other's recollections.  Barney was up first.

Under hypnosis, Barney recalled his first visions of the craft, which he described as looking like a pancake.  With a pistol in one hand and his binoculars in the other, he walked towards the object after it landed.  From a distance, he was able to see approximately eleven humanoid figures, whom he described as being "somehow not human."  He recalled that the grayish beings wore glossy black uniforms and black caps.  They observed him through the craft's windows while one of the occupants communicated telepathically with Barney, instructing him to "stay where you are and keep looking."   

But Barney ran instead, and as he did so, he broke the strap to his binoculars.  He and Betty drove off as quickly as they could before being compelled to pull off the road and drive into the woods.  At this point, the Bel Air stalled, while three of the craft's occupants approached the Hills.  They told Barney not to fear them.

Barney displays his rendition of the craft.
Barney continued his recount of the ordeal, stating that the beings escorted him and Betty onto their craft where they were separated.  He was disrobed and given a complete medical examination. Skin samples were scraped from his back, a sperm sample was collected, and a gastrointestinal device was employed.  Use your imagination.

Under her hypnosis session, Betty's account was consistent with Barney's up to the point where they entered the craft.  Once separated, she was given a similar examination, though hers seemed to be much more painful.  While the beings employed telepathy with Barney, they spoke perfect English with Betty.  Dr. Simon recorded these sessions, and you can hear Betty's in its entirety here.

Betty recounted her discussions with the leader.  She asked him where they were from.  In response, he showed her a star map and asked her to identify Earth.  As she was unable to do so, the being jokingly replied "well if you don't know where you're from, how will you know where I'm from?"  The being reassured Betty, but informed her that her memories of the encounter would be erased.

Following the sessions, Betty was able to draw the star map with surprising clarity.  It contained twelve prominent stars connected by three smaller ones which formed a distinctive triangle.  She recalled the being telling her that the more prominent stars formed "trade routes," whereas the smaller ones were those less traveled to.

In 1966, the story received national attention after the publication of John Fuller's book The Interrupted Journey (see Trivia below).  Two years later, an amateur astronomer who read the book theorized that the star map represented the dual star system of Zeta Reticuli.  As a result, the Hills abduction is often referred to as "The Zeta Reticuli Incident."

Barney didn't have a particularly long life after the incident.  He died of a stroke just a few years later on February 25, 1969.  He was just 46 years old.

After Barney passed away, Betty remarried.  She continued to be in the public eye, giving media interviews and making public appearances.  She ultimately died on October 23, 2004.  She was 85 years old.

The Hills are buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Kingston, New Hampshire.

  • The Hills have a very unique burial situation.  The plot is owned by Betty's mother and the main headstone bears the Barrett name.  Barney was the first to pass, and he's buried not only with Betty, but his first wife as well.  Not to be outdone, Betty's third husband is also buried there.  They were a very close family.

  • The Interrupted Journey, written by John Fuller, was first published in 1966.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • The 1975 made-for-TV movie The UFO Incident is available for free in its entirety on Youtube.  Watch it here.  

    Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones as Betty and Barney Hill.
  • In 1997, Betty was interviewed by WGBH's Greater Boston program, offering her first-person account of the abduction.  Watch it here.

  • Several years before their encounter, Betty's sister claimed to have also seen a UFO.

  • A historical marker noting the incident was placed along a New Hampshire highway where the encounter took place.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fred MacMurray

Frederick Martin MacMurray was born in Kankakee, Illinois on August 30, 1908.  He was the son of a music teacher and the nephew of a vaudeville performer,  Growing up, he was constantly exposed to the world of show business.

Like his father, he had an interest in music.  He attended Carroll College in Wisconsin on a full scholarship.  There he played the saxophone in a number of college bands.  Ironically though, he never graduated.

By 1930, he was already a featured vocalist and clarinet player.  That year, he recorded with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra on their song "All I Want is Just One Girl."  You can hear him croon it out here.  He also recorded with George Olsen on two hits, "I'm in the Market for You" and "After a Million Dreams."

After a brief stint on Broadway, MacMurray went to Hollywood, where work came quickly.  In 1935, he co-starred with screen legend Claudette Colbert in The Gilded Lily and with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion.  That same year, he did his first of four films with icon Carole Lombard.  Not bad for a newbie in Hollywood.

Though often cast as the nice guy, MacMurray preferred roles that went against type.  He'd get that chance in 1944 with Double Indemnity, in which he played a philanderer out to murder and replace Barbara Stanwyck's husband.  Later in 1954, he played Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in The Caine Mutiny, another less than favorable character.  Click on each title for a clip.

In 1960, MacMurray was cast in the role for which he is most famously remembered, Steve Douglas on the sit-com My Three Sons.  It was an instant success for CBS and would run for 12 seasons.  Watch the series intro here.

MacMurray was still appearing in films during this period, including The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and its sequel Son of Flubber (1963).  In order to accommodate his hectic schedule, MacMurray used his star power to provide himself with a condensed filming schedule on the sit-com.  Each season, all of his scenes were filmed in two month-long production blocks and filmed before any of the other actors on the show.

When the series ended, MacMurray was able to settle down and live off his investments.  He seldom acted, but did appear in the occasional commercial (see Trivia below).

MacMurray was a lifelong smoker.  He suffered from throat cancer in the 1970s and later again in the late 1980s.  In 1988, he suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed on the right side of his body.  He ultimately died of pneumonia on November 5, 1991.  He was 83 years old.

Fred MacMurray was entombed at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Rest in peace, Fred.

  • In 1939, Fawcett Comics artist C.C. Beck used MacMurray as his model for the superhero Captain Marvel.  Today, that character is known as Shazam.

  • Fred MacMurray: A Biography, was released by author Charles Tranberg in 2007.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • By 1943, MacMurray was not only Hollywood's highest-paid actor but also the fourth highest-paid person in America!

  • In 1987, MacMurray was the first person to ever be honored as a Disney legend.  Ironically, the modern Disney fan has no idea who MacMurray was.

  • In the 1970s, MacMurray appeared in a series of spots for Greyhound Lines.  You can watch one here.  Later, he was a pitchman for the Chisenbop educational system for children.  Check it out here.  It's pretty sad.

  • MacMurray loved the outdoors and bought a ranch in L.A.s Russian River Valley.  When he retired from show business, he enjoyed painting, fishing and skeet shooting on his property.  He also raised prize-winning cattle and grew a variety of crops, including apples, alfalfa and watermelon.  When he passed away, the land was sold to Gallo, which planted vineyards bearing the MacMurray Ranch name.  His daughter still lives on the property and is actively engaged in the wine community.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Sue Jones was born in Amarillo, Texas on April 28, 1930.  As a child, she suffered from asthma, which prevented her from participating in childhood activities.  Instead of going to the movies, she read about them, becoming an avid reader of Hollywood fan magazines, through which she aspired to become an actress.

When she turned 17, she moved to California and enrolled in the famed Pasadena Playhouse.  There she was spotted by a talent scout from Paramount who was quick to offer her a contract with the studio.

Her film debut was in 1952's The Turning Point, starring William Holden.  You can watch the film in its entirety here.  The following year, she appeared in The Big Heat as a nightclub hostess and in the original House of Wax.  In the latter film, her character is turned into a Joan of Arc statue in Vincent Price's macabre museum.  Watch a clip here.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Jones remained a bankable commodity throughout the 1950s.  On television, she'd make several appearances on Dragnet and the CBS anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  On the silver screen, she appeared in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956 and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in 1957's The Bachelor Party.  Click on each film title for a clip.

All of this was leading up to the role she is most famously associated with, that of Morticia on the ABC sit-com The Addams Family.  The series was based on a comic strip series by cartoonist Charles Addams, which appeared in New Yorker Magazine in the 1950s.

The series only ran for two seasons with a total of 64 episodes, which have survived in syndication ever since.  I'm sure you remember the theme song, which you can listen to here.

Jones was quite fond of her role, later stating "I loved that show.  I was sorry to see it go.  Morticia was the perfect role for me because my sense of humor is just slightly off-center."

After the series ended, Jones continued to act on television, guest starring on series such as The Mod Squad, Ironside and The Love Boat.  She had a small but memorable role in the acclaimed 1977 mini-series Roots.  She also appeared on a number of television game shows.

The last major role of her career, and sadly her life, came in 1982, when she was cast as Myrna Clegg, family matriarch, on the CBS daytime soap opera Capitol.  When it began, she had already been diagnosed with colon cancer, but continued to work while it was in remission.  Unfortunately, the cancer returned later that year and her health began to decline.  She was often absent from the set, and producers brought in actress Marla Adams as a replacement. 

In July 1983, Jones slipped into a coma, from which she'd never recover.  She died peacefully on August 3, 1983.  She was 53 years old.

Carolyn Jones was cremated.  Her ashes were interred in her mother's crypt at Melrose Abbey Memorial Park and Mortuary in Anaheim, California.

Here's a video on how to find the crypt from the vlog Memory Lane Trips with Steve.

Rest in peace, Morticia.

  • In 1953, Jones married television producer Aaron Spelling before either of them was a household name.  It wouldn't last however, as the couple divorced ten years later.  It was her second of four marriages, none of which produced any children.

  • That same year, Jones was cast in the classic film From Here to Eternity, but had to bow out after contracting pneumonia.  She was replaced in the film by Donna Reed, who would win an Oscar Award for her performance.

  • Jones played more than one character within the DC Comics Universe.  In 1967, she appeared on the Adam West Batman TV series as the villain, Marsha, Queen of Diamonds.  Ten years later, she'd appear as Hyppolitta, mother of Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.  Click on each title to see a clip of Jones in the role.

  • In 1977, Jones and the rest of the cast returned for the made-for-TV movie Halloween with the New Addams Family.  You can watch the film in its entirety here.  I had no idea this thing existed.  It's right up there with the Star Wars Holiday Special.

  • Wanna learn more about her life and career?  Pick up a copy of her 2012 biography "In Morticia's Shadow: The Life & Career of Carolyn Jones."  Available from Amazon.

  • In 2009, The Biography Channel produced Carolyn Jones: Morticia & More.  You can watch the documentary in its entirety here.